Thursday, October 18, 2007



(Tom Sawyer's Comrade)
(Samuel L. Clemens)
PERSONS attempting to find a motive in this narrative
will be prosecuted; persons attempting to find a
moral in it will be banished; persons attempting to
find a plot in it will be shot.
Per G.G., Chief of Ordnance.
IN this book a number of dialects are used, to wit:
the Missouri negro dialect; the extremest form of the
backwoods Southwestern dialect; the ordinary "Pike
County" dialect; and four modified varieties of this
last. The shadings have not been done in a haphazard
fashion, or by guesswork; but painstakingly,
and with the trustworthy guidance and support of
personal familiarity with these several forms of speech.
I make this explanation for the reason that without
it many readers would suppose that all these characters
were trying to talk alike and not succeeding.
Scene: The Mississippi Valley
Time: Forty to fifty years ago
YOU don't know about me without you have read a
book by the name of The Adventures of Tom
Sawyer; but that ain't no matter. That book was
made by Mr. Mark Twain, and he told the truth,
mainly. There was things which he stretched, but
mainly he told the truth. That is nothing. I never
seen anybody but lied one time or another, without it
was Aunt Polly, or the widow, or maybe Mary. Aunt
Polly -- Tom's Aunt Polly, she is -- and Mary, and
the Widow Douglas is all told about in that book,
which is mostly a true book, with some stretchers, as
I said before.
Now the way that the book winds up is this: Tom
and me found the money that the robbers hid in the
cave, and it made us rich. We got six thousand dollars
apiece -- all gold. It was an awful sight of money
when it was piled up. Well, Judge Thatcher he took
it and put it out at interest, and it fetched us a dollar
a day apiece all the year round -- more than a body
could tell what to do with. The Widow Douglas she
took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilize
me; but it was rough living in the house all the time,
considering how dismal regular and decent the widow
was in all her ways; and so when I couldn't stand it
no longer I lit out. I got into my old rags and my
sugar-hogshead again, and was free and satisfied. But
Tom Sawyer he hunted me up and said he was going
to start a band of robbers, and I might join if I would
go back to the widow and be respectable. So I went
The widow she cried over me, and called me a poor
lost lamb, and she called me a lot of other names,
too, but she never meant no harm by it. She put me
in them new clothes again, and I couldn't do nothing
but sweat and sweat, and feel all cramped up. Well,
then, the old thing commenced again. The widow
rung a bell for supper, and you had to come to time.
When you got to the table you couldn't go right to
eating, but you had to wait for the widow to tuck
down her head and grumble a little over the victuals,
though there warn't really anything the matter with
them, -- that is, nothing only everything was cooked
by itself. In a barrel of odds and ends it is different;
things get mixed up, and the juice kind of swaps
around, and the things go better.
After supper she got out her book and learned me
about Moses and the Bulrushers, and I was in a sweat
to find out all about him; but by and by she let it out
that Moses had been dead a considerable long time; so
then I didn't care no more about him, because I don't
take no stock in dead people.
Pretty soon I wanted to smoke, and asked the widow
to let me. But she wouldn't. She said it was a mean
practice and wasn't clean, and I must try to not do it
any more. That is just the way with some people.
They get down on a thing when they don't know
nothing about it. Here she was a-bothering about
Moses, which was no kin to her, and no use to anybody,
being gone, you see, yet finding a power of
fault with me for doing a thing that had some good in
it. And she took snuff, too; of course that was all
right, because she done it herself.
Her sister, Miss Watson, a tolerable slim old maid,
with goggles on, had just come to live with her, and
took a set at me now with a spelling-book. She
worked me middling hard for about an hour, and then
the widow made her ease up. I couldn't stood it
much longer. Then for an hour it was deadly dull,
and I was fidgety. Miss Watson would say, "Don't
put your feet up there, Huckleberry;" and "Don't
scrunch up like that, Huckleberry -- set up straight;"
and pretty soon she would say, "Don't gap and stretch
like that, Huckleberry -- why don't you try to behave?"
Then she told me all about the bad place,
and I said I wished I was there. She got mad then,
but I didn't mean no harm. All I wanted was to go
somewheres; all I wanted was a change, I warn't
particular. She said it was wicked to say what I said;
said she wouldn't say it for the whole world; she was
going to live so as to go to the good place. Well, I
couldn't see no advantage in going where she was
going, so I made up my mind I wouldn't try for it.
But I never said so, because it would only make
trouble, and wouldn't do no good.
Now she had got a start, and she went on and told
me all about the good place. She said all a body
would have to do there was to go around all day long
with a harp and sing, forever and ever. So I didn't
think much of it. But I never said so. I asked her if
she reckoned Tom Sawyer would go there, and she
said not by a considerable sight. I was glad about
that, because I wanted him and me to be together.
Miss Watson she kept pecking at me, and it got
tiresome and lonesome. By and by they fetched the
niggers in and had prayers, and then everybody was
off to bed. I went up to my room with a piece of
candle, and put it on the table. Then I set down in a
chair by the window and tried to think of something
cheerful, but it warn't no use. I felt so lonesome I
most wished I was dead. The stars were shining, and
the leaves rustled in the woods ever so mournful; and
I heard an owl, away off, who-whooing about somebody
that was dead, and a whippowill and a dog crying
about somebody that was going to die; and the
wind was trying to whisper something to me, and I
couldn't make out what it was, and so it made the cold
shivers run over me. Then away out in the woods I
heard that kind of a sound that a ghost makes when it
wants to tell about something that's on its mind and
can't make itself understood, and so can't rest easy in
its grave, and has to go about that way every night
grieving. I got so down-hearted and scared I did wish
I had some company. Pretty soon a spider went
crawling up my shoulder, and I flipped it off and it lit
in the candle; and before I could budge it was all
shriveled up. I didn't need anybody to tell me that
that was an awful bad sign and would fetch me some
bad luck, so I was scared and most shook the clothes
off of me. I got up and turned around in my tracks
three times and crossed my breast every time; and
then I tied up a little lock of my hair with a thread to
keep witches away. But I hadn't no confidence.
You do that when you've lost a horseshoe that you've
found, instead of nailing it up over the door, but I
hadn't ever heard anybody say it was any way to keep
off bad luck when you'd killed a spider.
I set down again, a-shaking all over, and got out my
pipe for a smoke; for the house was all as still as
death now, and so the widow wouldn't know. Well,
after a long time I heard the clock away off in the
town go boom -- boom -- boom -- twelve licks; and
all still again -- stiller than ever. Pretty soon I heard
a twig snap down in the dark amongst the trees --
something was a stirring. I set still and listened.
Directly I could just barely hear a "me-yow! meyow!"
down there. That was good! Says I, "meyow!
me-yow!" as soft as I could, and then I put
out the light and scrambled out of the window on to
the shed. Then I slipped down to the ground and
crawled in among the trees, and, sure enough, there
was Tom Sawyer waiting for me.
WE went tiptoeing along a path amongst the trees
back towards the end of the widow's garden,
stooping down so as the branches wouldn't scrape our
heads. When we was passing by the kitchen I fell
over a root and made a noise. We scrouched down
and laid still. Miss Watson's big nigger, named Jim,
was setting in the kitchen door; we could see him
pretty clear, because there was a light behind him.
He got up and stretched his neck out about a minute,
listening. Then he says:
"Who dah?"
He listened some more; then he come tiptoeing
down and stood right between us; we could a touched
him, nearly. Well, likely it was minutes and minutes
that there warn't a sound, and we all there so close
together. There was a place on my ankle that got to
itching, but I dasn't scratch it; and then my ear begun
to itch; and next my back, right between my shoulders.
Seemed like I'd die if I couldn't scratch. Well,
I've noticed that thing plenty times since. If you are
with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to go to
sleep when you ain't sleepy -- if you are anywheres
where it won't do for you to scratch, why you will itch
all over in upwards of a thousand places. Pretty soon
Jim says:
"Say, who is you? Whar is you? Dog my cats
ef I didn' hear sumf'n. Well, I know what I's gwyne
to do: I's gwyne to set down here and listen tell I
hears it agin."
So he set down on the ground betwixt me and Tom.
He leaned his back up against a tree, and stretched his
legs out till one of them most touched one of mine.
My nose begun to itch. It itched till the tears come
into my eyes. But I dasn't scratch. Then it begun
to itch on the inside. Next I got to itching underneath.
I didn't know how I was going to set still.
This miserableness went on as much as six or seven
minutes; but it seemed a sight longer than that. I
was itching in eleven different places now. I reckoned
I couldn't stand it more'n a minute longer, but I set
my teeth hard and got ready to try. Just then Jim
begun to breathe heavy; next he begun to snore --
and then I was pretty soon comfortable again.
Tom he made a sign to me -- kind of a little noise
with his mouth -- and we went creeping away on our
hands and knees. When we was ten foot off Tom
whispered to me, and wanted to tie Jim to the tree for
fun. But I said no; he might wake and make a disturbance,
and then they'd find out I warn't in. Then
Tom said he hadn't got candles enough, and he would
slip in the kitchen and get some more. I didn't want
him to try. I said Jim might wake up and come.
But Tom wanted to resk it; so we slid in there and got
three candles, and Tom laid five cents on the table for
pay. Then we got out, and I was in a sweat to get
away; but nothing would do Tom but he must crawl
to where Jim was, on his hands and knees, and play
something on him. I waited, and it seemed a good
while, everything was so still and lonesome.
As soon as Tom was back we cut along the path,
around the garden fence, and by and by fetched up on
the steep top of the hill the other side of the house.
Tom said he slipped Jim's hat off of his head and hung
it on a limb right over him, and Jim stirred a little, but
he didn't wake. Afterwards Jim said the witches bewitched
him and put him in a trance, and rode him all
over the State, and then set him under the trees again,
and hung his hat on a limb to show who done it. And
next time Jim told it he said they rode him down to
New Orleans; and, after that, every time he told it he
spread it more and more, till by and by he said they
rode him all over the world, and tired him most to
death, and his back was all over saddle-boils. Jim
was monstrous proud about it, and he got so he
wouldn't hardly notice the other niggers. Niggers
would come miles to hear Jim tell about it, and he was
more looked up to than any nigger in that country.
Strange niggers would stand with their mouths open
and look him all over, same as if he was a wonder.
Niggers is always talking about witches in the dark by
the kitchen fire; but whenever one was talking and
letting on to know all about such things, Jim would
happen in and say, "Hm! What you know 'bout
witches?" and that nigger was corked up and had to
take a back seat. Jim always kept that five-center
piece round his neck with a string, and said it was a
charm the devil give to him with his own hands, and
told him he could cure anybody with it and fetch
witches whenever he wanted to just by saying something
to it; but he never told what it was he said to it.
Niggers would come from all around there and give
Jim anything they had, just for a sight of that fivecenter
piece; but they wouldn't touch it, because the
devil had had his hands on it. Jim was most ruined
for a servant, because he got stuck up on account of
having seen the devil and been rode by witches.
Well, when Tom and me got to the edge of the hilltop
we looked away down into the village and could
see three or four lights twinkling, where there was sick
folks, maybe; and the stars over us was sparkling ever
so fine; and down by the village was the river, a whole
mile broad, and awful still and grand. We went down
the hill and found Jo Harper and Ben Rogers, and
two or three more of the boys, hid in the old tanyard.
So we unhitched a skiff and pulled down the river two
mile and a half, to the big scar on the hillside, and
went ashore.
We went to a clump of bushes, and Tom made
everybody swear to keep the secret, and then showed
them a hole in the hill, right in the thickest part of the
bushes. Then we lit the candles, and crawled in on
our hands and knees. We went about two hundred
yards, and then the cave opened up. Tom poked
about amongst the passages, and pretty soon ducked
under a wall where you wouldn't a noticed that there
was a hole. We went along a narrow place and got
into a kind of room, all damp and sweaty and cold,
and there we stopped. Tom says:
"Now, we'll start this band of robbers and call it
Tom Sawyer's Gang. Everybody that wants to join
has got to take an oath, and write his name in blood."
Everybody was willing. So Tom got out a sheet of
paper that he had wrote the oath on, and read it. It
swore every boy to stick to the band, and never tell
any of the secrets; and if anybody done anything to
any boy in the band, whichever boy was ordered to
kill that person and his family must do it, and he
mustn't eat and he mustn't sleep till he had killed them
and hacked a cross in their breasts, which was the sign
of the band. And nobody that didn't belong to the
band could use that mark, and if he did he must be
sued; and if he done it again he must be killed. And
if anybody that belonged to the band told the secrets,
he must have his throat cut, and then have his carcass
burnt up and the ashes scattered all around, and his
name blotted off of the list with blood and never mentioned
again by the gang, but have a curse put on it
and be forgot forever.
Everybody said it was a real beautiful oath, and
asked Tom if he got it out of his own head. He said,
some of it, but the rest was out of pirate-books and
robber-books, and every gang that was high-toned
had it.
Some thought it would be good to kill the FAMILIES
of boys that told the secrets. Tom said it was a good
idea, so he took a pencil and wrote it in. Then Ben
Rogers says:
"Here's Huck Finn, he hain't got no family; what
you going to do 'bout him?"
"Well, hain't he got a father?" says Tom Sawyer.
"Yes, he's got a father, but you can't never find
him these days. He used to lay drunk with the hogs
in the tanyard, but he hain't been seen in these parts
for a year or more."
They talked it over, and they was going to rule me
out, because they said every boy must have a family
or somebody to kill, or else it wouldn't be fair and
square for the others. Well, nobody could think of
anything to do -- everybody was stumped, and set
still. I was most ready to cry; but all at once I
thought of a way, and so I offered them Miss Watson
-- they could kill her. Everybody said:
"Oh, she'll do. That's all right. Huck can come
Then they all stuck a pin in their fingers to get
blood to sign with, and I made my mark on the paper.
"Now," says Ben Rogers, "what's the line of business
of this Gang?"
"Nothing only robbery and murder," Tom said.
"But who are we going to rob? -- houses, or cattle,
or --"
"Stuff! stealing cattle and such things ain't robbery;
it's burglary," says Tom Sawyer. "We ain't
burglars. That ain't no sort of style. We are highwaymen.
We stop stages and carriages on the road,
with masks on, and kill the people and take their
watches and money."
"Must we always kill the people?"
"Oh, certainly. It's best. Some authorities think
different, but mostly it's considered best to kill them --
except some that you bring to the cave here, and keep
them till they're ransomed."
"Ransomed? What's that?"
"I don't know. But that's what they do. I've
seen it in books; and so of course that's what we've
got to do."
"But how can we do it if we don't know what it is?"
"Why, blame it all, we've GOT to do it. Don't I tell
you it's in the books? Do you want to go to doing
different from what's in the books, and get things all
muddled up?"
"Oh, that's all very fine to SAY, Tom Sawyer, but
how in the nation are these fellows going to be ransomed
if we don't know how to do it to them? -- that's
the thing I want to get at. Now, what do you reckon
it is?"
"Well, I don't know. But per'aps if we keep them
till they're ransomed, it means that we keep them till
they're dead. "
"Now, that's something LIKE. That'll answer.
Why couldn't you said that before? We'll keep them
till they're ransomed to death; and a bothersome lot
they'll be, too -- eating up everything, and always
trying to get loose."
"How you talk, Ben Rogers. How can they get
loose when there's a guard over them, ready to shoot
them down if they move a peg?"
"A guard! Well, that IS good. So somebody's
got to set up all night and never get any sleep, just so
as to watch them. I think that's foolishness. Why
can't a body take a club and ransom them as soon as
they get here?"
"Because it ain't in the books so -- that's why.
Now, Ben Rogers, do you want to do things regular,
or don't you? -- that's the idea. Don't you reckon
that the people that made the books knows what's the
correct thing to do? Do you reckon YOU can learn
'em anything? Not by a good deal. No, sir, we'll
just go on and ransom them in the regular way."
"All right. I don't mind; but I say it's a fool
way, anyhow. Say, do we kill the women, too?"
"Well, Ben Rogers, if I was as ignorant as you I
wouldn't let on. Kill the women? No; nobody ever
saw anything in the books like that. You fetch them
to the cave, and you're always as polite as pie to them;
and by and by they fall in love with you, and never
want to go home any more."
"Well, if that's the way I'm agreed, but I don't
take no stock in it. Mighty soon we'll have the cave
so cluttered up with women, and fellows waiting to be
ransomed, that there won't be no place for the robbers.
But go ahead, I ain't got nothing to say."
Little Tommy Barnes was asleep now, and when
they waked him up he was scared, and cried, and said
he wanted to go home to his ma, and didn't want to
be a robber any more.
So they all made fun of him, and called him crybaby,
and that made him mad, and he said he would
go straight and tell all the secrets. But Tom give him
five cents to keep quiet, and said we would all go home
and meet next week, and rob somebody and kill some
Ben Rogers said he couldn't get out much, only
Sundays, and so he wanted to begin next Sunday; but
all the boys said it would be wicked to do it on Sunday,
and that settled the thing. They agreed to get together
and fix a day as soon as they could, and then
we elected Tom Sawyer first captain and Jo Harper
second captain of the Gang, and so started home.
I clumb up the shed and crept into my window just
before day was breaking. My new clothes was all
greased up and clayey, and I was dog-tired.
WELL, I got a good going-over in the morning
from old Miss Watson on account of my
clothes; but the widow she didn't scold, but only
cleaned off the grease and clay, and looked so sorry
that I thought I would behave awhile if I could. Then
Miss Watson she took me in the closet and prayed, but
nothing come of it. She told me to pray every day,
and whatever I asked for I would get it. But it warn't
so. I tried it. Once I got a fish-line, but no hooks.
It warn't any good to me without hooks. I tried for
the hooks three or four times, but somehow I couldn't
make it work. By and by, one day, I asked Miss
Watson to try for me, but she said I was a fool. She
never told me why, and I couldn't make it out no way.
I set down one time back in the woods, and had a
long think about it. I says to myself, if a body can
get anything they pray for, why don't Deacon Winn
get back the money he lost on pork? Why can't the
widow get back her silver snuffbox that was stole?
Why can't Miss Watson fat up? No, says I to my
self, there ain't nothing in it. I went and told the
widow about it, and she said the thing a body could
get by praying for it was "spiritual gifts." This was
too many for me, but she told me what she meant -- I
must help other people, and do everything I could for
other people, and look out for them all the time, and
never think about myself. This was including Miss
Watson, as I took it. I went out in the woods and
turned it over in my mind a long time, but I couldn't
see no advantage about it -- except for the other people;
so at last I reckoned I wouldn't worry about it
any more, but just let it go. Sometimes the widow
would take me one side and talk about Providence in a
way to make a body's mouth water; but maybe next
day Miss Watson would take hold and knock it all
down again. I judged I could see that there was two
Providences, and a poor chap would stand considerable
show with the widow's Providence, but if Miss Watson's
got him there warn't no help for him any more.
I thought it all out, and reckoned I would belong to
the widow's if he wanted me, though I couldn't make
out how he was a-going to be any better off then than
what he was before, seeing I was so ignorant, and so
kind of low-down and ornery.
Pap he hadn't been seen for more than a year, and
that was comfortable for me; I didn't want to see him
no more. He used to always whale me when he was
sober and could get his hands on me; though I used
to take to the woods most of the time when he was
around. Well, about this time he was found in the
river drownded, about twelve mile above town, so
people said. They judged it was him, anyway; said
this drownded man was just his size, and was ragged,
and had uncommon long hair, which was all like pap;
but they couldn't make nothing out of the face, because
it had been in the water so long it warn't much
like a face at all. They said he was floating on his
back in the water. They took him and buried him on
the bank. But I warn't comfortable long, because I
happened to think of something. I knowed mighty
well that a drownded man don't float on his back, but
on his face. So I knowed, then, that this warn't pap,
but a woman dressed up in a man's clothes. So I was
uncomfortable again. I judged the old man would
turn up again by and by, though I wished he wouldn't.
We played robber now and then about a month, and
then I resigned. All the boys did. We hadn't robbed
nobody, hadn't killed any people, but only just pretended.
We used to hop out of the woods and go
charging down on hog-drivers and women in carts
taking garden stuff to market, but we never hived any
of them. Tom Sawyer called the hogs "ingots," and
he called the turnips and stuff "julery," and we would
go to the cave and powwow over what we had done,
and how many people we had killed and marked. But
I couldn't see no profit in it. One time Tom sent a
boy to run about town with a blazing stick, which he
called a slogan (which was the sign for the Gang to
get together), and then he said he had got secret news
by his spies that next day a whole parcel of Spanish
merchants and rich A-rabs was going to camp in Cave
Hollow with two hundred elephants, and six hundred
camels, and over a thousand "sumter" mules, all
loaded down with di'monds, and they didn't have only
a guard of four hundred soldiers, and so we would lay
in ambuscade, as he called it, and kill the lot and
scoop the things. He said we must slick up our swords
and guns, and get ready. He never could go after
even a turnip-cart but he must have the swords and
guns all scoured up for it, though they was only lath
and broomsticks, and you might scour at them till you
rotted, and then they warn't worth a mouthful of ashes
more than what they was before. I didn't believe we
could lick such a crowd of Spaniards and A-rabs, but
I wanted to see the camels and elephants, so I was on
hand next day, Saturday, in the ambuscade; and when
we got the word we rushed out of the woods and down
the hill. But there warn't no Spaniards and A-rabs,
and there warn't no camels nor no elephants. It
warn't anything but a Sunday-school picnic, and only
a primer-class at that. We busted it up, and chased
the children up the hollow; but we never got anything
but some doughnuts and jam, though Ben Rogers got
a rag doll, and Jo Harper got a hymn-book and a
tract; and then the teacher charged in, and made us
drop everything and cut. I didn't see no di'monds,
and I told Tom Sawyer so. He said there was loads
of them there, anyway; and he said there was A-rabs
there, too, and elephants and things. I said, why
couldn't we see them, then? He said if I warn't so
ignorant, but had read a book called Don Quixote, I
would know without asking. He said it was all done
by enchantment. He said there was hundreds of
soldiers there, and elephants and treasure, and so on,
but we had enemies which he called magicians; and
they had turned the whole thing into an infant Sundayschool,
just out of spite. I said, all right; then the
thing for us to do was to go for the magicians. Tom
Sawyer said I was a numskull.
"Why," said he, "a magician could call up a lot
of genies, and they would hash you up like nothing
before you could say Jack Robinson. They are as tall
as a tree and as big around as a church."
"Well," I says, "s'pose we got some genies to
help US -- can't we lick the other crowd then?"
"How you going to get them?"
"I don't know. How do THEY get them?"
"Why, they rub an old tin lamp or an iron ring,
and then the genies come tearing in, with the thunder
and lightning a-ripping around and the smoke a-rolling,
and everything they're told to do they up and do it.
They don't think nothing of pulling a shot-tower up
by the roots, and belting a Sunday-school superintendent
over the head with it -- or any other man."
"Who makes them tear around so?"
"Why, whoever rubs the lamp or the ring. They
belong to whoever rubs the lamp or the ring, and
they've got to do whatever he says. If he tells them
to build a palace forty miles long out of di'monds, and
fill it full of chewing-gum, or whatever you want, and
fetch an emperor's daughter from China for you to
marry, they've got to do it -- and they've got to do it
before sun-up next morning, too. And more: they've
got to waltz that palace around over the country
wherever you want it, you understand."
"Well," says I, "I think they are a pack of flatheads
for not keeping the palace themselves 'stead of
fooling them away like that. And what's more -- if I
was one of them I would see a man in Jericho before I
would drop my business and come to him for the rubbing
of an old tin lamp."
"How you talk, Huck Finn. Why, you'd HAVE to
come when he rubbed it, whether you wanted to or
"What! and I as high as a tree and as big as a
church? All right, then; I WOULD come; but I lay
I'd make that man climb the highest tree there was in
the country."
"Shucks, it ain't no use to talk to you, Huck Finn.
You don't seem to know anything, somehow -- perfect
I thought all this over for two or three days, and
then I reckoned I would see if there was anything in it.
I got an old tin lamp and an iron ring, and went out in
the woods and rubbed and rubbed till I sweat like an
Injun, calculating to build a palace and sell it; but it
warn't no use, none of the genies come. So then I
judged that all that stuff was only just one of Tom
Sawyer's lies. I reckoned he believed in the A-rabs
and the elephants, but as for me I think different. It
had all the marks of a Sunday-school.
WELL, three or four months run along, and it was
well into the winter now. I had been to school
most all the time and could spell and read and write
just a little, and could say the multiplication table up
to six times seven is thirty-five, and I don't reckon I
could ever get any further than that if I was to live
forever. I don't take no stock in mathematics, anyway.
At first I hated the school, but by and by I got so I
could stand it. Whenever I got uncommon tired I
played hookey, and the hiding I got next day done me
good and cheered me up. So the longer I went to
school the easier it got to be. I was getting sort of
used to the widow's ways, too, and they warn't so
raspy on me. Living in a house and sleeping in a bed
pulled on me pretty tight mostly, but before the cold
weather I used to slide out and sleep in the woods
sometimes, and so that was a rest to me. I liked the
old ways best, but I was getting so I liked the new
ones, too, a little bit. The widow said I was coming
along slow but sure, and doing very satisfactory. She
said she warn't ashamed of me.
One morning I happened to turn over the salt-cellar
at breakfast. I reached for some of it as quick as I
could to throw over my left shoulder and keep off the
bad luck, but Miss Watson was in ahead of me, and
crossed me off. She says, "Take your hands away,
Huckleberry; what a mess you are always making!"
The widow put in a good word for me, but that warn't
going to keep off the bad luck, I knowed that well
enough. I started out, after breakfast, feeling worried
and shaky, and wondering where it was going to fall
on me, and what it was going to be. There is ways to
keep off some kinds of bad luck, but this wasn't one
of them kind; so I never tried to do anything, but just
poked along low-spirited and on the watch-out.
I went down to the front garden and clumb over the
stile where you go through the high board fence.
There was an inch of new snow on the ground, and I
seen somebody's tracks. They had come up from the
quarry and stood around the stile a while, and then
went on around the garden fence. It was funny they
hadn't come in, after standing around so. I couldn't
make it out. It was very curious, somehow. I was
going to follow around, but I stooped down to look at
the tracks first. I didn't notice anything at first, but
next I did. There was a cross in the left boot-heel
made with big nails, to keep off the devil.
I was up in a second and shinning down the hill. I
looked over my shoulder every now and then, but I
didn't see nobody. I was at Judge Thatcher's as quick
as I could get there. He said:
"Why, my boy, you are all out of breath. Did
you come for your interest?"
"No, sir," I says; "is there some for me?"
"Oh, yes, a half-yearly is in last night -- over a
hundred and fifty dollars. Quite a fortune for you.
You had better let me invest it along with your six
thousand, because if you take it you'll spend it."
"No, sir," I says, "I don't want to spend it. I
don't want it at all -- nor the six thousand, nuther.
I want you to take it; I want to give it to you -- the
six thousand and all."
He looked surprised. He couldn't seem to make
it out. He says:
"Why, what can you mean, my boy?"
I says, "Don't you ask me no questions about it,
please. You'll take it -- won't you?"
He says:
"Well, I'm puzzled. Is something the matter?"
"Please take it," says I, "and don't ask me nothing
-- then I won't have to tell no lies."
He studied a while, and then he says:
"Oho-o! I think I see. You want to SELL all your
property to me -- not give it. That's the correct
Then he wrote something on a paper and read it
over, and says:
"There; you see it says 'for a consideration.' That
means I have bought it of you and paid you for it.
Here's a dollar for you. Now you sign it."
So I signed it, and left.
Miss Watson's nigger, Jim, had a hair-ball as big as
your fist, which had been took out of the fourth
stomach of an ox, and he used to do magic with it.
He said there was a spirit inside of it, and it knowed
everything. So I went to him that night and told him
pap was here again, for I found his tracks in the snow.
What I wanted to know was, what he was going to do,
and was he going to stay? Jim got out his hair-ball
and said something over it, and then he held it up and
dropped it on the floor. It fell pretty solid, and only
rolled about an inch. Jim tried it again, and then
another time, and it acted just the same. Jim got
down on his knees, and put his ear against it and
listened. But it warn't no use; he said it wouldn't
talk. He said sometimes it wouldn't talk without
money. I told him I had an old slick counterfeit
quarter that warn't no good because the brass showed
through the silver a little, and it wouldn't pass nohow,
even if the brass didn't show, because it was so slick
it felt greasy, and so that would tell on it every time.
(I reckoned I wouldn't say nothing about the dollar I
got from the judge.) I said it was pretty bad money,
but maybe the hair-ball would take it, because maybe
it wouldn't know the difference. Jim smelt it and bit
it and rubbed it, and said he would manage so the
hair-ball would think it was good. He said he would
split open a raw Irish potato and stick the quarter in
between and keep it there all night, and next morning
you couldn't see no brass, and it wouldn't feel greasy
no more, and so anybody in town would take it in a
minute, let alone a hair-ball. Well, I knowed a potato
would do that before, but I had forgot it.
Jim put the quarter under the hair-ball, and got
down and listened again. This time he said the hairball
was all right. He said it would tell my whole
fortune if I wanted it to. I says, go on. So the hairball
talked to Jim, and Jim told it to me. He says:
"Yo' ole father doan' know yit what he's a-gwyne
to do. Sometimes he spec he'll go 'way, en den agin
he spec he'll stay. De bes' way is to res' easy en let
de ole man take his own way. Dey's two angels
hoverin' roun' 'bout him. One uv 'em is white en
shiny, en t'other one is black. De white one gits him
to go right a little while, den de black one sail in en
bust it all up. A body can't tell yit which one gwyne
to fetch him at de las'. But you is all right. You
gwyne to have considable trouble in yo' life, en considable
joy. Sometimes you gwyne to git hurt, en
sometimes you gwyne to git sick; but every time you's
gwyne to git well agin. Dey's two gals flyin' 'bout
you in yo' life. One uv 'em's light en t'other one is
dark. One is rich en t'other is po'. You's gwyne to
marry de po' one fust en de rich one by en by. You
wants to keep 'way fum de water as much as you kin,
en don't run no resk, 'kase it's down in de bills dat
you's gwyne to git hung."
When I lit my candle and went up to my room that
night there sat pap -- his own self!
I HAD shut the door to. Then I turned around.
and there he was. I used to be scared of him all
the time, he tanned me so much. I reckoned I was
scared now, too; but in a minute I see I was mistaken
-- that is, after the first jolt, as you may say, when
my breath sort of hitched, he being so unexpected;
but right away after I see I warn't scared of him worth
bothring about.
He was most fifty, and he looked it. His hair was
long and tangled and greasy, and hung down, and you
could see his eyes shining through like he was behind
vines. It was all black, no gray; so was his long,
mixed-up whiskers. There warn't no color in his face,
where his face showed; it was white; not like another
man's white, but a white to make a body sick, a white
to make a body's flesh crawl -- a tree-toad white, a
fish-belly white. As for his clothes -- just rags, that
was all. He had one ankle resting on t'other knee;
the boot on that foot was busted, and two of his toes
stuck through, and he worked them now and then.
His hat was laying on the floor -- an old black slouch
with the top caved in, like a lid.
I stood a-looking at him; he set there a-looking at
me, with his chair tilted back a little. I set the candle
down. I noticed the window was up; so he had clumb
in by the shed. He kept a-looking me all over. By
and by he says:
"Starchy clothes -- very. You think you're a good
deal of a big-bug, DON'T you?"
"Maybe I am, maybe I ain't," I says.
"Don't you give me none o' your lip," says he.
"You've put on considerable many frills since I been
away. I'll take you down a peg before I get done
with you. You're educated, too, they say -- can read
and write. You think you're better'n your father,
now, don't you, because he can't? I'LL take it out of
you. Who told you you might meddle with such
hifalut'n foolishness, hey? -- who told you you could?"
"The widow. She told me."
"The widow, hey? -- and who told the widow she
could put in her shovel about a thing that ain't none of
her business?"
"Nobody never told her."
"Well, I'll learn her how to meddle. And looky
here -- you drop that school, you hear? I'll learn
people to bring up a boy to put on airs over his own
father and let on to be better'n what HE is. You lemme
catch you fooling around that school again, you hear?
Your mother couldn't read, and she couldn't write,
nuther, before she died. None of the family couldn't
before THEY died. I can't; and here you're a-swelling
yourself up like this. I ain't the man to stand it --
you hear? Say, lemme hear you read."
I took up a book and begun something about General
Washington and the wars. When I'd read about
a half a minute, he fetched the book a whack with his
hand and knocked it across the house. He says:
"It's so. You can do it. I had my doubts when
you told me. Now looky here; you stop that putting
on frills. I won't have it. I'll lay for you, my
smarty; and if I catch you about that school I'll tan
you good. First you know you'll get religion, too. I
never see such a son.
He took up a little blue and yaller picture of some
cows and a boy, and says:
"What's this?"
"It's something they give me for learning my
lessons good."
He tore it up, and says:
"I'll give you something better -- I'll give you a
He set there a-mumbling and a-growling a minute,
and then he says:
"AIN'T you a sweet-scented dandy, though? A
bed; and bedclothes; and a look'n'-glass; and a piece
of carpet on the floor -- and your own father got to
sleep with the hogs in the tanyard. I never see such a
son. I bet I'll take some o' these frills out o' you
before I'm done with you. Why, there ain't no end to
your airs -- they say you're rich. Hey? -- how's that?"
"They lie -- that's how."
"Looky here -- mind how you talk to me; I'm astanding
about all I can stand now -- so don't gimme
no sass. I've been in town two days, and I hain't
heard nothing but about you bein' rich. I heard
about it away down the river, too. That's why I
come. You git me that money to-morrow -- I want
"I hain't got no money."
"It's a lie. Judge Thatcher's got it. You git it.
I want it."
"I hain't got no money, I tell you. You ask Judge
Thatcher; he'll tell you the same."
"All right. I'll ask him; and I'll make him pungle,
too, or I'll know the reason why. Say, how much
you got in your pocket? I want it."
"I hain't got only a dollar, and I want that to --"
"It don't make no difference what you want it for
-- you just shell it out."
He took it and bit it to see if it was good, and then
he said he was going down town to get some whisky;
said he hadn't had a drink all day. When he had got
out on the shed he put his head in again, and cussed
me for putting on frills and trying to be better than
him; and when I reckoned he was gone he come back
and put his head in again, and told me to mind about
that school, because he was going to lay for me and
lick me if I didn't drop that.
Next day he was drunk, and he went to Judge
Thatcher's and bullyragged him, and tried to make
him give up the money; but he couldn't, and then he
swore he'd make the law force him.
The judge and the widow went to law to get the
court to take me away from him and let one of them
be my guardian; but it was a new judge that had just
come, and he didn't know the old man; so he said
courts mustn't interfere and separate families if they
could help it; said he'd druther not take a child away
from its father. So Judge Thatcher and the widow
had to quit on the business.
That pleased the old man till he couldn't rest. He
said he'd cowhide me till I was black and blue if I
didn't raise some money for him. I borrowed three
dollars from Judge Thatcher, and pap took it and got
drunk, and went a-blowing around and cussing and
whooping and carrying on; and he kept it up all over
town, with a tin pan, till most midnight; then they
jailed him, and next day they had him before court,
and jailed him again for a week. But he said HE was
satisfied; said he was boss of his son, and he'd make
it warm for HIM.
When he got out the new judge said he was a-going
to make a man of him. So he took him to his
own house, and dressed him up clean and nice, and
had him to breakfast and dinner and supper with the
family, and was just old pie to him, so to speak. And
after supper he talked to him about temperance and
such things till the old man cried, and said he'd been a
fool, and fooled away his life; but now he was a-going
to turn over a new leaf and be a man nobody wouldn't
be ashamed of, and he hoped the judge would help
him and not look down on him. The judge said he
could hug him for them words; so he cried, and his
wife she cried again; pap said he'd been a man that had
always been misunderstood before, and the judge said
he believed it. The old man said that what a man
wanted that was down was sympathy, and the judge
said it was so; so they cried again. And when it was
bedtime the old man rose up and held out his hand,
and says:
"Look at it, gentlemen and ladies all; take a-hold
of it; shake it. There's a hand that was the hand of
a hog; but it ain't so no more; it's the hand of a man
that's started in on a new life, and'll die before he'll
go back. You mark them words -- don't forget I said
them. It's a clean hand now; shake it -- don't be
So they shook it, one after the other, all around, and
cried. The judge's wife she kissed it. Then the old
man he signed a pledge -- made his mark. The judge
said it was the holiest time on record, or something
like that. Then they tucked the old man into a beautiful
room, which was the spare room, and in the night
some time he got powerful thirsty and clumb out on to
the porch-roof and slid down a stanchion and traded his
new coat for a jug of forty-rod, and clumb back again
and had a good old time; and towards daylight he
crawled out again, drunk as a fiddler, and rolled off
the porch and broke his left arm in two places, and
was most froze to death when somebody found him
after sun-up. And when they come to look at that
spare room they had to take soundings before they
could navigate it.
The judge he felt kind of sore. He said he reckoned
a body could reform the old man with a shotgun,
maybe, but he didn't know no other way.
WELL, pretty soon the old man was up and around
again, and then he went for Judge Thatcher in
the courts to make him give up that money, and he
went for me, too, for not stopping school. He catched
me a couple of times and thrashed me, but I went to
school just the same, and dodged him or outrun him
most of the time. I didn't want to go to school much
before, but I reckoned I'd go now to spite pap. That
law trial was a slow business -- appeared like they
warn't ever going to get started on it; so every now
and then I'd borrow two or three dollars off of the
judge for him, to keep from getting a cowhiding.
Every time he got money he got drunk; and every
time he got drunk he raised Cain around town; and
every time he raised Cain he got jailed. He was just
suited -- this kind of thing was right in his line.
He got to hanging around the widow's too much
and so she told him at last that if he didn't quit using
around there she would make trouble for him. Well,
WASN'T he mad? He said he would show who was
Huck Finn's boss. So he watched out for me one day
in the spring, and catched me, and took me up the
river about three mile in a skiff, and crossed over to
the Illinois shore where it was woody and there warn't
no houses but an old log hut in a place where the
timber was so thick you couldn't find it if you didn't
know where it was.
He kept me with him all the time, and I never got a
chance to run off. We lived in that old cabin, and he
always locked the door and put the key under his head
nights. He had a gun which he had stole, I reckon,
and we fished and hunted, and that was what we lived
on. Every little while he locked me in and went down
to the store, three miles, to the ferry, and traded fish
and game for whisky, and fetched it home and got
drunk and had a good time, and licked me. The
widow she found out where I was by and by, and she
sent a man over to try to get hold of me; but pap
drove him off with the gun, and it warn't long after
that till I was used to being where I was, and liked
it -- all but the cowhide part.
It was kind of lazy and jolly, laying off comfortable
all day, smoking and fishing, and no books nor study.
Two months or more run along, and my clothes got to
be all rags and dirt, and I didn't see how I'd ever got
to like it so well at the widow's, where you had to
wash, and eat on a plate, and comb up, and go to bed
and get up regular, and be forever bothering over a
book, and have old Miss Watson pecking at you all the
time. I didn't want to go back no more. I had
stopped cussing, because the widow didn't like it; but
now I took to it again because pap hadn't no objections.
It was pretty good times up in the woods
there, take it all around.
But by and by pap got too handy with his hick'ry,
and I couldn't stand it. I was all over welts. He got
to going away so much, too, and locking me in. Once
he locked me in and was gone three days. It was
dreadful lonesome. I judged he had got drowned,
and I wasn't ever going to get out any more. I was
scared. I made up my mind I would fix up some way
to leave there. I had tried to get out of that cabin
many a time, but I couldn't find no way. There
warn't a window to it big enough for a dog to get
through. I couldn't get up the chimbly; it was too
narrow. The door was thick, solid oak slabs. Pap
was pretty careful not to leave a knife or anything in
the cabin when he was away; I reckon I had hunted
the place over as much as a hundred times; well, I
was most all the time at it, because it was about the
only way to put in the time. But this time I found
something at last; I found an old rusty wood-saw
without any handle; it was laid in between a rafter
and the clapboards of the roof. I greased it up and
went to work. There was an old horse-blanket nailed
against the logs at the far end of the cabin behind the
table, to keep the wind from blowing through the
chinks and putting the candle out. I got under the
table and raised the blanket, and went to work to saw
a section of the big bottom log out -- big enough to
let me through. Well, it was a good long job, but I
was getting towards the end of it when I heard pap's
gun in the woods. I got rid of the signs of my work,
and dropped the blanket and hid my saw, and pretty
soon pap come in.
Pap warn't in a good humor -- so he was his natural
self. He said he was down town, and everything was
going wrong. His lawyer said he reckoned he would
win his lawsuit and get the money if they ever got
started on the trial; but then there was ways to put it
off a long time, and Judge Thatcher knowed how to do
it And he said people allowed there'd be another
trial to get me away from him and give me to the
widow for my guardian, and they guessed it would win
this time. This shook me up considerable, because I
didn't want to go back to the widow's any more and
be so cramped up and sivilized, as they called it.
Then the old man got to cussing, and cussed everything
and everybody he could think of, and then cussed
them all over again to make sure he hadn't skipped
any, and after that he polished off with a kind of a
general cuss all round, including a considerable parcel
of people which he didn't know the names of, and so
called them what's-his-name when he got to them, and
went right along with his cussing.
He said he would like to see the widow get me.
He said he would watch out, and if they tried to come
any such game on him he knowed of a place six or
seven mile off to stow me in, where they might hunt
till they dropped and they couldn't find me. That
made me pretty uneasy again, but only for a minute;
I reckoned I wouldn't stay on hand till he got that
The old man made me go to the skiff and fetch the
things he had got. There was a fifty-pound sack of
corn meal, and a side of bacon, ammunition, and a
four-gallon jug of whisky, and an old book and two
newspapers for wadding, besides some tow. I toted
up a load, and went back and set down on the bow of
the skiff to rest. I thought it all over, and I reckoned
I would walk off with the gun and some lines, and take
to the woods when I run away. I guessed I wouldn't
stay in one place, but just tramp right across the
country, mostly night times, and hunt and fish to keep
alive, and so get so far away that the old man nor the
widow couldn't ever find me any more. I judged I
would saw out and leave that night if pap got drunk
enough, and I reckoned he would. I got so full of it
I didn't notice how long I was staying till the old man
hollered and asked me whether I was asleep or
I got the things all up to the cabin, and then it was
about dark. While I was cooking supper the old man
took a swig or two and got sort of warmed up, and
went to ripping again. He had been drunk over in
town, and laid in the gutter all night, and he was a
sight to look at. A body would a thought he was
Adam -- he was just all mud. Whenever his liquor
begun to work he most always went for the govment.
his time he says:
"Call this a govment! why, just look at it and see
what it's like. Here's the law a-standing ready to take
a man's son away from him -- a man's own son, which
he has had all the trouble and all the anxiety and all
the expense of raising. Yes, just as that man has got
that son raised at last, and ready to go to work and
begin to do suthin' for HIM and give him a rest, the law
up and goes for him. And they call THAT govment!
That ain't all, nuther. The law backs that old Judge
Thatcher up and helps him to keep me out o' my
property. Here's what the law does: The law takes a
man worth six thousand dollars and up'ards, and jams
him into an old trap of a cabin like this, and lets him
go round in clothes that ain't fitten for a hog. They
call that govment! A man can't get his rights in a
govment like this. Sometimes I've a mighty notion to
just leave the country for good and all. Yes, and I
TOLD 'em so; I told old Thatcher so to his face. Lots
of 'em heard me, and can tell what I said. Says I,
for two cents I'd leave the blamed country and never
come a-near it agin. Them's the very words. I says
look at my hat -- if you call it a hat -- but the lid
raises up and the rest of it goes down till it's below
my chin, and then it ain't rightly a hat at all, but more
like my head was shoved up through a jint o' stovepipe.
Look at it, says I -- such a hat for me to wear
-- one of the wealthiest men in this town if I could git
my rights.
"Oh, yes, this is a wonderful govment, wonderful.
Why, looky here. There was a free nigger there from
Ohio -- a mulatter, most as white as a white man. He
had the whitest shirt on you ever see, too, and the
shiniest hat; and there ain't a man in that town that's
got as fine clothes as what he had; and he had a gold
watch and chain, and a silver-headed cane -- the awfulest
old gray-headed nabob in the State. And what do
you think? They said he was a p'fessor in a college,
and could talk all kinds of languages, and knowed
everything. And that ain't the wust. They said he
could VOTE when he was at home. Well, that let me
out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It
was 'lection day, and I was just about to go and vote
myself if I warn't too drunk to get there; but when
they told me there was a State in this country where
they'd let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I'll
never vote agin. Them's the very words I said; they
all heard me; and the country may rot for all me --
I'll never vote agin as long as I live. And to see the
cool way of that nigger -- why, he wouldn't a give me
the road if I hadn't shoved him out o' the way. I
says to the people, why ain't this nigger put up at
auction and sold? -- that's what I want to know. And
what do you reckon they said? Why, they said he
couldn't be sold till he'd been in the State six months,
and he hadn't been there that long yet. There, now --
that's a specimen. They call that a govment that can't
sell a free nigger till he's been in the State six months.
Here's a govment that calls itself a govment, and lets
on to be a govment, and thinks it is a govment, and
yet's got to set stock-still for six whole months before
it can take a hold of a prowling, thieving, infernal,
white-shirted free nigger, and --"
Pap was agoing on so he never noticed where his
old limber legs was taking him to, so he went head over
heels over the tub of salt pork and barked both shins,
and the rest of his speech was all the hottest kind of
language -- mostly hove at the nigger and the govment,
though he give the tub some, too, all along,
here and there. He hopped around the cabin considerable,
first on one leg and then on the other, holding
first one shin and then the other one, and at last he
let out with his left foot all of a sudden and fetched
the tub a rattling kick. But it warn't good judgment,
because that was the boot that had a couple of his toes
leaking out of the front end of it; so now he raised a
howl that fairly made a body's hair raise, and down he
went in the dirt, and rolled there, and held his toes;
and the cussing he done then laid over anything he
had ever done previous. He said so his own self afterwards.
He had heard old Sowberry Hagan in his
best days, and he said it laid over him, too; but I
reckon that was sort of piling it on, maybe.
After supper pap took the jug, and said he had
enough whisky there for two drunks and one delirium
tremens. That was always his word. I judged he
would be blind drunk in about an hour, and then I
would steal the key, or saw myself out, one or t'other.
He drank and drank, and tumbled down on his
blankets by and by; but luck didn't run my way. He
didn't go sound asleep, but was uneasy. He groaned
and moaned and thrashed around this way and that for
a long time. At last I got so sleepy I couldn't keep
my eyes open all I could do, and so before I knowed
what I was about I was sound asleep, and the candle
I don't know how long I was asleep, but all of a
sudden there was an awful scream and I was up.
There was pap looking wild, and skipping around every
which way and yelling about snakes. He said they
was crawling up his legs; and then he would give a
jump and scream, and say one had bit him on the
cheek -- but I couldn't see no snakes. He started
and run round and round the cabin, hollering "Take
him off! take him off! he's biting me on the neck!"
I never see a man look so wild in the eyes. Pretty
soon he was all fagged out, and fell down panting;
then he rolled over and over wonderful fast, kicking
things every which way, and striking and grabbing at
the air with his hands, and screaming and saying there
was devils a-hold of him. He wore out by and by,
and laid still a while, moaning. Then he laid stiller,
and didn't make a sound. I could hear the owls and
the wolves away off in the woods, and it seemed terrible
still. He was laying over by the corner. By and
by he raised up part way and listened, with his head
to one side. He says, very low:
"Tramp -- tramp -- tramp; that's the dead; tramp
-- tramp -- tramp; they're coming after me; but I
won't go. Oh, they're here! don't touch me -- don't!
hands off -- they're cold; let go. Oh, let a poor devil
Then he went down on all fours and crawled off,
begging them to let him alone, and he rolled himself
up in his blanket and wallowed in under the old pine
table, still a-begging; and then he went to crying. I
could hear him through the blanket.
By and by he rolled out and jumped up on his feet
looking wild, and he see me and went for me. He
chased me round and round the place with a claspknife,
calling me the Angel of Death, and saying he
would kill me, and then I couldn't come for him no
more. I begged, and told him I was only Huck; but
he laughed SUCH a screechy laugh, and roared and
cussed, and kept on chasing me up. Once when I
turned short and dodged under his arm he made a
grab and got me by the jacket between my shoulders,
and I thought I was gone; but I slid out of the jacket
quick as lightning, and saved myself. Pretty soon he
was all tired out, and dropped down with his back
against the door, and said he would rest a minute and
then kill me. He put his knife under him, and said
he would sleep and get strong, and then he would see
who was who.
So he dozed off pretty soon. By and by I got the
old split-bottom chair and clumb up as easy as I could,
not to make any noise, and got down the gun. I
slipped the ramrod down it to make sure it was loaded,
then I laid it across the turnip barrel, pointing
towards pap, and set down behind it to wait for him to
stir. And how slow and still the time did drag along.
RGIT up! What you 'bout?"
I opened my eyes and looked around, trying
to make out where I was. It was after sun-up, and I
had been sound asleep. Pap was standing over me
looking sour and sick, too. He says:
"What you doin' with this gun?"
I judged he didn't know nothing about what he had
been doing, so I says:
"Somebody tried to get in, so I was laying for
"Why didn't you roust me out?"
"Well, I tried to, but I couldn't; I couldn't budge
"Well, all right. Don't stand there palavering all
day, but out with you and see if there's a fish on the
lines for breakfast. I'll be along in a minute."
He unlocked the door, and I cleared out up the
river-bank. I noticed some pieces of limbs and such
things floating down, and a sprinkling of bark; so I
knowed the river had begun to rise. I reckoned I
would have great times now if I was over at the town.
The June rise used to be always luck for me; because
as soon as that rise begins here comes cordwood floating
down, and pieces of log rafts -- sometimes a dozen
logs together; so all you have to do is to catch them
and sell them to the wood-yards and the sawmill.
I went along up the bank with one eye out for pap
and t'other one out for what the rise might fetch
along. Well, all at once here comes a canoe; just a
beauty, too, about thirteen or fourteen foot long,
riding high like a duck. I shot head-first off of the
bank like a frog, clothes and all on, and struck out for
the canoe. I just expected there'd be somebody laying
down in it, because people often done that to fool
folks, and when a chap had pulled a skiff out most to
it they'd raise up and laugh at him. But it warn't so
this time. It was a drift-canoe sure enough, and I
clumb in and paddled her ashore. Thinks I, the old
man will be glad when he sees this -- she's worth ten
dollars. But when I got to shore pap wasn't in sight
yet, and as I was running her into a little creek like a
gully, all hung over with vines and willows, I struck
another idea: I judged I'd hide her good, and then,
'stead of taking to the woods when I run off, I'd go
down the river about fifty mile and camp in one place
for good, and not have such a rough time tramping on
It was pretty close to the shanty, and I thought I
heard the old man coming all the time; but I got her
hid; and then I out and looked around a bunch of
willows, and there was the old man down the path
a piece just drawing a bead on a bird with his gun. So
he hadn't seen anything.
When he got along I was hard at it taking up a
"trot" line. He abused me a little for being so slow;
but I told him I fell in the river, and that was what
made me so long. I knowed he would see I was wet,
and then he would be asking questions. We got five
catfish off the lines and went home.
While we laid off after breakfast to sleep up, both of
us being about wore out, I got to thinking that if I could
fix up some way to keep pap and the widow from trying
to follow me, it would be a certainer thing than trusting
to luck to get far enough off before they missed
me; you see, all kinds of things might happen. Well,
I didn't see no way for a while, but by and by pap
raised up a minute to drink another barrel of water,
and he says:
"Another time a man comes a-prowling round here
you roust me out, you hear? That man warn't here
for no good. I'd a shot him. Next time you roust
me out, you hear?"
Then he dropped down and went to sleep again; but
what he had been saying give me the very idea I
wanted. I says to myself, I can fix it now so nobody
won't think of following me.
About twelve o'clock we turned out and went along
up the bank. The river was coming up pretty fast,
and lots of driftwood going by on the rise. By and
by along comes part of a log raft -- nine logs fast
together. We went out with the skiff and towed it
ashore. Then we had dinner. Anybody but pap
would a waited and seen the day through, so as to
catch more stuff; but that warn't pap's style. Nine
logs was enough for one time; he must shove right
over to town and sell. So he locked me in and took
the skiff, and started off towing the raft about halfpast
three. I judged he wouldn't come back that
night. I waited till I reckoned he had got a good
start; then I out with my saw, and went to work on
that log again. Before he was t'other side of the river
I was out of the hole; him and his raft was just a
speck on the water away off yonder.
I took the sack of corn meal and took it to where
the canoe was hid, and shoved the vines and branches
apart and put it in; then I done the same with the
side of bacon; then the whisky-jug. I took all the
coffee and sugar there was, and all the ammunition; I
took the wadding; I took the bucket and gourd; I
took a dipper and a tin cup, and my old saw and two
blankets, and the skillet and the coffee-pot. I took
fish-lines and matches and other things -- everything
that was worth a cent. I cleaned out the place. I
wanted an axe, but there wasn't any, only the one out
at the woodpile, and I knowed why I was going to leave
that. I fetched out the gun, and now I was done.
I had wore the ground a good deal crawling out of
the hole and dragging out so many things. So I
fixed that as good as I could from the outside by
scattering dust on the place, which covered up the
smoothness and the sawdust. Then I fixed the piece
of log back into its place, and put two rocks under it
and one against it to hold it there, for it was bent up
at that place and didn't quite touch ground. If you
stood four or five foot away and didn't know it was
sawed, you wouldn't never notice it; and besides, this
was the back of the cabin, and it warn't likely anybody
would go fooling around there.
It was all grass clear to the canoe, so I hadn't left a
track. I followed around to see. I stood on the
bank and looked out over the river. All safe. So I
took the gun and went up a piece into the woods, and
was hunting around for some birds when I see a wild
pig; hogs soon went wild in them bottoms after they
had got away from the prairie farms. I shot this fellow
and took him into camp.
I took the axe and smashed in the door. I beat it
and hacked it considerable a-doing it. I fetched the
pig in, and took him back nearly to the table and
hacked into his throat with the axe, and laid him down
on the ground to bleed; I say ground because it was
ground -- hard packed, and no boards. Well, next I
took an old sack and put a lot of big rocks in it -- all I
could drag -- and I started it from the pig, and dragged
it to the door and through the woods down to the river
and dumped it in, and down it sunk, out of sight.
You could easy see that something had been dragged
over the ground. I did wish Tom Sawyer was there;
I knowed he would take an interest in this kind of
business, and throw in the fancy touches. Nobody
could spread himself like Tom Sawyer in such a thing
as that.
Well, last I pulled out some of my hair, and blooded
the axe good, and stuck it on the back side, and slung
the axe in the corner. Then I took up the pig and held
him to my breast with my jacket (so he couldn't drip)
till I got a good piece below the house and then
dumped him into the river. Now I thought of something
else. So I went and got the bag of meal
and my old saw out of the canoe, and fetched
them to the house. I took the bag to where it
used to stand, and ripped a hole in the bottom of it
with the saw, for there warn't no knives and forks on
the place -- pap done everything with his clasp-knife
about the cooking. Then I carried the sack about a
hundred yards across the grass and through the willows
east of the house, to a shallow lake that was five mile
wide and full of rushes -- and ducks too, you might
say, in the season. There was a slough or a creek
leading out of it on the other side that went miles away,
I don't know where, but it didn't go to the river. The
meal sifted out and made a little track all the way to
the lake. I dropped pap's whetstone there too, so as
to look like it had been done by accident. Then I tied
up the rip in the meal sack with a string, so it wouldn't
leak no more, and took it and my saw to the canoe
It was about dark now; so I dropped the canoe
down the river under some willows that hung over the
bank, and waited for the moon to rise. I made fast to
a willow; then I took a bite to eat, and by and by laid
down in the canoe to smoke a pipe and lay out a plan.
I says to myself, they'll follow the track of that sackful
of rocks to the shore and then drag the river for
me. And they'll follow that meal track to the lake
and go browsing down the creek that leads out of it to
find the robbers that killed me and took the things.
They won't ever hunt the river for anything but my
dead carcass. They'll soon get tired of that, and
won't bother no more about me. All right; I can
stop anywhere I want to. Jackson's Island is good
enough for me; I know that island pretty well, and
nobody ever comes there. And then I can paddle
over to town nights, and slink around and pick up
things I want. Jackson's Island's the place.
I was pretty tired, and the first thing I knowed I
was asleep. When I woke up I didn't know where I
was for a minute. I set up and looked around, a little
scared. Then I remembered. The river looked miles
and miles across. The moon was so bright I could a
counted the drift logs that went a-slipping along, black
and still, hundreds of yards out from shore. Everything
was dead quiet, and it looked late, and SMELT
late. You know what I mean -- I don't know the
words to put it in.
I took a good gap and a stretch, and was just going
to unhitch and start when I heard a sound away over
the water. I listened. Pretty soon I made it out. It
was that dull kind of a regular sound that comes from
oars working in rowlocks when it's a still night. I
peeped out through the willow branches, and there it
was -- a skiff, away across the water. I couldn't tell
how many was in it. It kept a-coming, and when it
was abreast of me I see there warn't but one man in it.
Think's I, maybe it's pap, though I warn't expecting
him. He dropped below me with the current, and
by and by he came a-swinging up shore in the easy
water, and he went by so close I could a reached out
the gun and touched him. Well, it WAS pap, sure
enough -- and sober, too, by the way he laid his oars.
I didn't lose no time. The next minute I was aspinning
down stream soft but quick in the shade of
the bank. I made two mile and a half, and then
struck out a quarter of a mile or more towards the
middle of the river, because pretty soon I would be
passing the ferry landing, and people might see me
and hail me. I got out amongst the driftwood, and
then laid down in the bottom of the canoe and let her
float. I laid there, and had a good rest and a smoke
out of my pipe, looking away into the sky; not a
cloud in it. The sky looks ever so deep when you lay
down on your back in the moonshine; I never knowed
it before. And how far a body can hear on the water
such nights! I heard people talking at the ferry landing.
I heard what they said, too -- every word of it.
One man said it was getting towards the long days and
the short nights now. T'other one said THIS warn't
one of the short ones, he reckoned -- and then they
laughed, and he said it over again, and they laughed
again; then they waked up another fellow and told
him, and laughed, but he didn't laugh; he ripped out
something brisk, and said let him alone. The first
fellow said he 'lowed to tell it to his old woman -- she
would think it was pretty good; but he said that
warn't nothing to some things he had said in his time.
I heard one man say it was nearly three o'clock, and
he hoped daylight wouldn't wait more than about a
week longer. After that the talk got further and
further away, and I couldn't make out the words any
more; but I could hear the mumble, and now and then
a laugh, too, but it seemed a long ways off.
I was away below the ferry now. I rose up, and
there was Jackson's Island, about two mile and a half
down stream, heavy timbered and standing up out of
the middle of the river, big and dark and solid, like a
steamboat without any lights. There warn't any signs
of the bar at the head -- it was all under water now.
It didn't take me long to get there. I shot past the
head at a ripping rate, the current was so swift, and
then I got into the dead water and landed on the side
towards the Illinois shore. I run the canoe into a deep
dent in the bank that I knowed about; I had to part
the willow branches to get in; and when I made fast
nobody could a seen the canoe from the outside.
I went up and set down on a log at the head of the
island, and looked out on the big river and the black
driftwood and away over to the town, three mile
away, where there was three or four lights twinkling.
A monstrous big lumber-raft was about a mile up
stream, coming along down, with a lantern in the
middle of it. I watched it come creeping down, and
when it was most abreast of where I stood I heard a
man say, "Stern oars, there! heave her head to stabboard!"
I heard that just as plain as if the man was
by my side.
There was a little gray in the sky now; so I stepped
into the woods, and laid down for a nap before breakfast.
THE sun was up so high when I waked that I judged
it was after eight o'clock. I laid there in the
grass and the cool shade thinking about things, and
feeling rested and ruther comfortable and satisfied. I
could see the sun out at one or two holes, but mostly
it was big trees all about, and gloomy in there amongst
them. There was freckled places on the ground where
the light sifted down through the leaves, and the
freckled places swapped about a little, showing there
was a little breeze up there. A couple of squirrels set
on a limb and jabbered at me very friendly.
I was powerful lazy and comfortable -- didn't want
to get up and cook breakfast. Well, I was dozing off
again when I thinks I hears a deep sound of "boom!"
away up the river. I rouses up, and rests on my elbow
and listens; pretty soon I hears it again. I hopped
up, and went and looked out at a hole in the leaves,
and I see a bunch of smoke laying on the water a long
ways up -- about abreast the ferry. And there was
the ferryboat full of people floating along down. I
knowed what was the matter now. "Boom!" I see
the white smoke squirt out of the ferryboat's side.
You see, they was firing cannon over the water, trying
to make my carcass come to the top.
I was pretty hungry, but it warn't going to do for
me to start a fire, because they might see the smoke.
So I set there and watched the cannon-smoke and
listened to the boom. The river was a mile wide there,
and it always looks pretty on a summer morning -- so
I was having a good enough time seeing them hunt for
my remainders if I only had a bite to eat. Well, then
I happened to think how they always put quicksilver
in loaves of bread and float them off, because they
always go right to the drownded carcass and stop
there. So, says I, I'll keep a lookout, and if any of
them's floating around after me I'll give them a show.
I changed to the Illinois edge of the island to see what
luck I could have, and I warn't disappointed. A big
double loaf come along, and I most got it with a long
stick, but my foot slipped and she floated out further.
Of course I was where the current set in the closest to
the shore -- I knowed enough for that. But by and
by along comes another one, and this time I won. I
took out the plug and shook out the little dab of quicksilver,
and set my teeth in. It was "baker's bread"
-- what the quality eat; none of your low-down
I got a good place amongst the leaves, and set there
on a log, munching the bread and watching the ferryboat,
and very well satisfied. And then something
struck me. I says, now I reckon the widow or the
parson or somebody prayed that this bread would find
me, and here it has gone and done it. So there ain't
no doubt but there is something in that thing -- that is,
there's something in it when a body like the widow or
the parson prays, but it don't work for me, and I
reckon it don't work for only just the right kind.
I lit a pipe and had a good long smoke, and went
on watching. The ferryboat was floating with the
current, and I allowed I'd have a chance to see who
was aboard when she come along, because she would
come in close, where the bread did. When she'd got
pretty well along down towards me, I put out my pipe
and went to where I fished out the bread, and laid
down behind a log on the bank in a little open place.
Where the log forked I could peep through.
By and by she come along, and she drifted in so
close that they could a run out a plank and walked
ashore. Most everybody was on the boat. Pap, and
Judge Thatcher, and Bessie Thatcher, and Jo Harper,
and Tom Sawyer, and his old Aunt Polly, and Sid and
Mary, and plenty more. Everybody was talking about
the murder, but the captain broke in and says:
"Look sharp, now; the current sets in the closest
here, and maybe he's washed ashore and got tangled
amongst the brush at the water's edge. I hope so,
"I didn't hope so. They all crowded up and leaned
over the rails, nearly in my face, and kept still, watching
with all their might. I could see them first-rate,
but they couldn't see me. Then the captain sung out:
"Stand away!" and the cannon let off such a blast
right before me that it made me deef with the noise and
pretty near blind with the smoke, and I judged I was
gone. If they'd a had some bullets in, I reckon
they'd a got the corpse they was after. Well, I see I
warn't hurt, thanks to goodness. The boat floated on
and went out of sight around the shoulder of the island.
I could hear the booming now and then, further and
further off, and by and by, after an hour, I didn't hear
it no more. The island was three mile long. I judged
they had got to the foot, and was giving it up. But
they didn't yet a while. They turned around the foot
of the island and started up the channel on the Missouri
side, under steam, and booming once in a while
as they went. I crossed over to that side and watched
them. When they got abreast the head of the island
they quit shooting and dropped over to the Missouri
shore and went home to the town.
I knowed I was all right now. Nobody else would
come a-hunting after me. I got my traps out of the
canoe and made me a nice camp in the thick woods. I
made a kind of a tent out of my blankets to put my
things under so the rain couldn't get at them. I
catched a catfish and haggled him open with my saw,
and towards sundown I started my camp fire and had
supper. Then I set out a line to catch some fish for
When it was dark I set by my camp fire smoking,
and feeling pretty well satisfied; but by and by it got
sort of lonesome, and so I went and set on the bank
and listened to the current swashing along, and counted
the stars and drift logs and rafts that come down, and
then went to bed; there ain't no better way to put in
time when you are lonesome; you can't stay so, you
soon get over it.
And so for three days and nights. No difference --
just the same thing. But the next day I went exploring
around down through the island. I was boss of it;
it all belonged to me, so to say, and I wanted to know
all about it; but mainly I wanted to put in the time.
I found plenty strawberries, ripe and prime; and green
summer grapes, and green razberries; and the green
blackberries was just beginning to show. They would
all come handy by and by, I judged.
Well, I went fooling along in the deep woods till I
judged I warn't far from the foot of the island. I had
my gun along, but I hadn't shot nothing; it was for
protection; thought I would kill some game nigh
home. About this time I mighty near stepped on a
good-sized snake, and it went sliding off through the
grass and flowers, and I after it, trying to get a shot at
it. I clipped along, and all of a sudden I bounded
right on to the ashes of a camp fire that was still
My heart jumped up amongst my lungs. I never
waited for to look further, but uncocked my gun and
went sneaking back on my tiptoes as fast as ever I
could. Every now and then I stopped a second amongst
the thick leaves and listened, but my breath come so
hard I couldn't hear nothing else. I slunk along another
piece further, then listened again; and so on,
and so on. If I see a stump, I took it for a man; if I
trod on a stick and broke it, it made me feel like a
person had cut one of my breaths in two and I only
got half, and the short half, too.
When I got to camp I warn't feeling very brash,
there warn't much sand in my craw; but I says, this
ain't no time to be fooling around. So I got all my
traps into my canoe again so as to have them out of
sight, and I put out the fire and scattered the ashes
around to look like an old last year's camp, and then
clumb a tree.
I reckon I was up in the tree two hours; but I
didn't see nothing, I didn't hear nothing -- I only
THOUGHT I heard and seen as much as a thousand
things. Well, I couldn't stay up there forever; so at
last I got down, but I kept in the thick woods and on
the lookout all the time. All I could get to eat was
berries and what was left over from breakfast.
By the time it was night I was pretty hungry. So
when it was good and dark I slid out from shore before
moonrise and paddled over to the Illinois bank -- about
a quarter of a mile. I went out in the woods and
cooked a supper, and I had about made up my mind
I would stay there all night when I hear a PLUNKETYPLUNK,
PLUNKETY-PLUNK, and says to myself, horses
coming; and next I hear people's voices. I got
everything into the canoe as quick as I could, and then
went creeping through the woods to see what I could
find out. I hadn't got far when I hear a man say:
"We better camp here if we can find a good place;
the horses is about beat out. Let's look around."
I didn't wait, but shoved out and paddled away
easy. I tied up in the old place, and reckoned I would
sleep in the canoe.
I didn't sleep much. I couldn't, somehow, for
thinking. And every time I waked up I thought
somebody had me by the neck. So the sleep didn't
do me no good. By and by I says to myself, I can't
live this way; I'm a-going to find out who it is that's
here on the island with me; I'll find it out or bust.
Well, I felt better right off.
So I took my paddle and slid out from shore just a
step or two, and then let the canoe drop along down
amongst the shadows. The moon was shining, and outside
of the shadows it made it most as light as day. I
poked along well on to an hour, everything still as
rocks and sound asleep. Well, by this time I was
most down to the foot of the island. A little ripply,
cool breeze begun to blow, and that was as good as
saying the night was about done. I give her a turn
with the paddle and brung her nose to shore; then I
got my gun and slipped out and into the edge of the
woods. I sat down there on a log, and looked out
through the leaves. I see the moon go off watch, and
the darkness begin to blanket the river. But in a little
while I see a pale streak over the treetops, and knowed
the day was coming. So I took my gun and slipped
off towards where I had run across that camp fire,
stopping every minute or two to listen. But I hadn't
no luck somehow; I couldn't seem to find the place.
But by and by, sure enough, I catched a glimpse of
fire away through the trees. I went for it, cautious
and slow. By and by I was close enough to have a
look, and there laid a man on the ground. It most
give me the fantods. He had a blanket around his
head, and his head was nearly in the fire. I set there
behind a clump of bushes in about six foot of him,
and kept my eyes on him steady. It was getting gray
daylight now. Pretty soon he gapped and stretched
himself and hove off the blanket, and it was Miss
Watson's Jim! I bet I was glad to see him. I says:
"Hello, Jim!" and skipped out.
He bounced up and stared at me wild. Then he
drops down on his knees, and puts his hands together
and says:
"Doan' hurt me -- don't! I hain't ever done no
harm to a ghos'. I alwuz liked dead people, en done
all I could for 'em. You go en git in de river agin,
whah you b'longs, en doan' do nuffn to Ole Jim, 'at
'uz awluz yo' fren'."
Well, I warn't long making him understand I warn't
dead. I was ever so glad to see Jim. I warn't lonesome
now. I told him I warn't afraid of HIM telling
the people where I was. I talked along, but he only
set there and looked at me; never said nothing. Then
I says:
"It's good daylight. Le's get breakfast. Make up
your camp fire good."
"What's de use er makin' up de camp fire to cook
strawbries en sich truck? But you got a gun, hain't
you? Den we kin git sumfn better den strawbries."
"Strawberries and such truck," I says. "Is that
what you live on?"
"I couldn' git nuffn else," he says.
"Why, how long you been on the island, Jim?"
"I come heah de night arter you's killed."
"What, all that time?"
"Yes -- indeedy."
"And ain't you had nothing but that kind of rubbage
to eat?"
"No, sah -- nuffn else."
"Well, you must be most starved, ain't you?"
"I reck'n I could eat a hoss. I think I could.
How long you ben on de islan'?"
"Since the night I got killed."
"No! W'y, what has you lived on? But you got
a gun. Oh, yes, you got a gun. Dat's good. Now
you kill sumfn en I'll make up de fire."
So we went over to where the canoe was, and while
he built a fire in a grassy open place amongst the trees,
I fetched meal and bacon and coffee, and coffee-pot
and frying-pan, and sugar and tin cups, and the nigger
was set back considerable, because he reckoned it was
all done with witchcraft. I catched a good big catfish,
too, and Jim cleaned him with his knife, and fried
When breakfast was ready we lolled on the grass and
eat it smoking hot. Jim laid it in with all his might,
for he was most about starved. Then when we had
got pretty well stuffed, we laid off and lazied.
By and by Jim says:
"But looky here, Huck, who wuz it dat 'uz killed
in dat shanty ef it warn't you?"
Then I told him the whole thing, and he said it was
smart. He said Tom Sawyer couldn't get up no better
plan than what I had. Then I says:
"How do you come to be here, Jim, and how'd you
get here?"
He looked pretty uneasy, and didn't say nothing for
a minute. Then he says:
"Maybe I better not tell."
"Why, Jim?"
"Well, dey's reasons. But you wouldn' tell on me
ef I uz to tell you, would you, Huck?"
"Blamed if I would, Jim."
"Well, I b'lieve you, Huck. I -- I RUN OFF."
"But mind, you said you wouldn' tell -- you know
you said you wouldn' tell, Huck."
"Well, I did. I said I wouldn't, and I'll stick to it.
Honest INJUN, I will. People would call me a lowdown
Abolitionist and despise me for keeping mum --
but that don't make no difference. I ain't a-going to
tell, and I ain't a-going back there, anyways. So,
now, le's know all about it."
"Well, you see, it 'uz dis way. Ole missus -- dat's
Miss Watson -- she pecks on me all de time, en treats
me pooty rough, but she awluz said she wouldn' sell
me down to Orleans. But I noticed dey wuz a nigger
trader roun' de place considable lately, en I begin to
git oneasy. Well, one night I creeps to de do' pooty
late, en de do' warn't quite shet, en I hear old missus
tell de widder she gwyne to sell me down to Orleans,
but she didn' want to, but she could git eight hund'd
dollars for me, en it 'uz sich a big stack o' money she
couldn' resis'. De widder she try to git her to say
she wouldn' do it, but I never waited to hear de res'.
I lit out mighty quick, I tell you.
"I tuck out en shin down de hill, en 'spec to steal a
skift 'long de sho' som'ers 'bove de town, but dey wuz
people a-stirring yit, so I hid in de ole tumble-down
cooper-shop on de bank to wait for everybody to go
'way. Well, I wuz dah all night. Dey wuz somebody
roun' all de time. 'Long 'bout six in de mawnin'
skifts begin to go by, en 'bout eight er nine every
skift dat went 'long wuz talkin' 'bout how yo' pap
come over to de town en say you's killed. Dese las'
skifts wuz full o' ladies en genlmen a-goin' over for to
see de place. Sometimes dey'd pull up at de sho' en
take a res' b'fo' dey started acrost, so by de talk I got
to know all 'bout de killin'. I 'uz powerful sorry
you's killed, Huck, but I ain't no mo' now.
"I laid dah under de shavin's all day. I 'uz
hungry, but I warn't afeard; bekase I knowed ole
missus en de widder wuz goin' to start to de campmeet'n'
right arter breakfas' en be gone all day, en
dey knows I goes off wid de cattle 'bout daylight, so
dey wouldn' 'spec to see me roun' de place, en so dey
wouldn' miss me tell arter dark in de evenin'. De
yuther servants wouldn' miss me, kase dey'd shin out
en take holiday soon as de ole folks 'uz out'n de way.
"Well, when it come dark I tuck out up de river
road, en went 'bout two mile er more to whah dey
warn't no houses. I'd made up my mine 'bout what
I's agwyne to do. You see, ef I kep' on tryin' to git
away afoot, de dogs 'ud track me; ef I stole a skift to
cross over, dey'd miss dat skift, you see, en dey'd
know 'bout whah I'd lan' on de yuther side, en whah
to pick up my track. So I says, a raff is what I's
arter; it doan' MAKE no track.
"I see a light a-comin' roun' de p'int bymeby, so I
wade' in en shove' a log ahead o' me en swum more'n
half way acrost de river, en got in 'mongst de driftwood,
en kep' my head down low, en kinder swum
agin de current tell de raff come along. Den I swum
to de stern uv it en tuck a-holt. It clouded up en 'uz
pooty dark for a little while. So I clumb up en laid
down on de planks. De men 'uz all 'way yonder in
de middle, whah de lantern wuz. De river wuz arisin',
en dey wuz a good current; so I reck'n'd 'at
by fo' in de mawnin' I'd be twenty-five mile down de
river, en den I'd slip in jis b'fo' daylight en swim
asho', en take to de woods on de Illinois side.
"But I didn' have no luck. When we 'uz mos'
down to de head er de islan' a man begin to come aft
wid de lantern, I see it warn't no use fer to wait, so I
slid overboard en struck out fer de islan'. Well, I had
a notion I could lan' mos' anywhers, but I couldn't --
bank too bluff. I 'uz mos' to de foot er de islan'
b'fo' I found' a good place. I went into de woods en
jedged I wouldn' fool wid raffs no mo', long as dey
move de lantern roun' so. I had my pipe en a plug er
dog-leg, en some matches in my cap, en dey warn't
wet, so I 'uz all right."
"And so you ain't had no meat nor bread to eat all
this time? Why didn't you get mud-turkles?"
"How you gwyne to git 'm? You can't slip up on
um en grab um; en how's a body gwyne to hit um
wid a rock? How could a body do it in de night?
En I warn't gwyne to show mysef on de bank in de
"Well, that's so. You've had to keep in the woods
all the time, of course. Did you hear 'em shooting
the cannon?"
"Oh, yes. I knowed dey was arter you. I see um
go by heah -- watched um thoo de bushes."
Some young birds come along, flying a yard or two
at a time and lighting. Jim said it was a sign it was
going to rain. He said it was a sign when young
chickens flew that way, and so he reckoned it was the
same way when young birds done it. I was going to
catch some of them, but Jim wouldn't let me. He
said it was death. He said his father laid mighty sick
once, and some of them catched a bird, and his old
granny said his father would die, and he did.
And Jim said you mustn't count the things you are
going to cook for dinner, because that would bring
bad luck. The same if you shook the table-cloth after
sundown. And he said if a man owned a beehive and
that man died, the bees must be told about it before
sun-up next morning, or else the bees would all
weaken down and quit work and die. Jim said bees
wouldn't sting idiots; but I didn't believe that, because
I had tried them lots of times myself, and they
wouldn't sting me.
I had heard about some of these things before, but
not all of them. Jim knowed all kinds of signs. He
said he knowed most everything. I said it looked to
me like all the signs was about bad luck, and so I
asked him if there warn't any good-luck signs. He
"Mighty few -- an' DEY ain't no use to a body.
What you want to know when good luck's a-comin'
for? Want to keep it off?" And he said: "Ef you's
got hairy arms en a hairy breas', it's a sign dat you's
agwyne to be rich. Well, dey's some use in a sign
like dat, 'kase it's so fur ahead. You see, maybe
you's got to be po' a long time fust, en so you might
git discourage' en kill yo'sef 'f you didn' know by de
sign dat you gwyne to be rich bymeby."
"Have you got hairy arms and a hairy breast,
"What's de use to ax dat question? Don't you
see I has?"
"Well, are you rich?"
"No, but I ben rich wunst, and gwyne to be rich
agin. Wunst I had foteen dollars, but I tuck to
specalat'n', en got busted out."
"What did you speculate in, Jim?"
"Well, fust I tackled stock."
"What kind of stock?"
"Why, live stock -- cattle, you know. I put ten
dollars in a cow. But I ain' gwyne to resk no mo'
money in stock. De cow up 'n' died on my han's."
"So you lost the ten dollars."
"No, I didn't lose it all. I on'y los' 'bout nine of
it. I sole de hide en taller for a dollar en ten cents."
"You had five dollars and ten cents left. Did you
speculate any more?"
"Yes. You know that one-laigged nigger dat
b'longs to old Misto Bradish? Well, he sot up a
bank, en say anybody dat put in a dollar would git fo'
dollars mo' at de en' er de year. Well, all de niggers
went in, but dey didn't have much. I wuz de on'y
one dat had much. So I stuck out for mo' dan fo'
dollars, en I said 'f I didn' git it I'd start a bank mysef.
Well, o' course dat nigger want' to keep me out
er de business, bekase he says dey warn't business
'nough for two banks, so he say I could put in my five
dollars en he pay me thirty-five at de en' er de year.
"So I done it. Den I reck'n'd I'd inves' de
thirty-five dollars right off en keep things a-movin'.
Dey wuz a nigger name' Bob, dat had ketched a woodflat,
en his marster didn' know it; en I bought it off'n
him en told him to take de thirty-five dollars when de
en' er de year come; but somebody stole de wood-flat
dat night, en nex day de one-laigged nigger say de
bank's busted. So dey didn' none uv us git no
"What did you do with the ten cents, Jim?"
"Well, I 'uz gwyne to spen' it, but I had a dream,
en de dream tole me to give it to a nigger name'
Balum -- Balum's Ass dey call him for short; he's
one er dem chuckleheads, you know. But he's lucky,
dey say, en I see I warn't lucky. De dream say let
Balum inves' de ten cents en he'd make a raise for me.
Well, Balum he tuck de money, en when he wuz in
church he hear de preacher say dat whoever give to de
po' len' to de Lord, en boun' to git his money back a
hund'd times. So Balum he tuck en give de ten cents
to de po', en laid low to see what wuz gwyne to come
of it."
"Well, what did come of it, Jim?"
"Nuffn never come of it. I couldn' manage to
k'leck dat money no way; en Balum he couldn'. I
ain' gwyne to len' no mo' money 'dout I see de
security. Boun' to git yo' money back a hund'd
times, de preacher says! Ef I could git de ten CENTS
back, I'd call it squah, en be glad er de chanst."
"Well, it's all right anyway, Jim, long as you're
going to be rich again some time or other."
"Yes; en I's rich now, come to look at it. I owns
mysef, en I's wuth eight hund'd dollars. I wisht I
had de money, I wouldn' want no mo'."
I WANTED to go and look at a place right about the
middle of the island that I'd found when I was
exploring; so we started and soon got to it, because
the island was only three miles long and a quarter of a
mile wide.
This place was a tolerable long, steep hill or ridge
about forty foot high. We had a rough time getting
to the top, the sides was so steep and the bushes so
thick. We tramped and clumb around all over it, and
by and by found a good big cavern in the rock, most
up to the top on the side towards Illinois. The cavern
was as big as two or three rooms bunched together,
and Jim could stand up straight in it. It was cool in
there. Jim was for putting our traps in there right
away, but I said we didn't want to be climbing up and
down there all the time.
Jim said if we had the canoe hid in a good place,
and had all the traps in the cavern, we could rush there
if anybody was to come to the island, and they would
never find us without dogs. And, besides, he said
them little birds had said it was going to rain, and did
I want the things to get wet?
So we went back and got the canoe, and paddled up
abreast the cavern, and lugged all the traps up there.
Then we hunted up a place close by to hide the canoe
in, amongst the thick willows. We took some fish off
of the lines and set them again, and begun to get ready
for dinner.
The door of the cavern was big enough to roll a
hogshead in, and on one side of the door the floor
stuck out a little bit, and was flat and a good place to
build a fire on. So we built it there and cooked
We spread the blankets inside for a carpet, and eat
our dinner in there. We put all the other things handy
at the back of the cavern. Pretty soon it darkened up,
and begun to thunder and lighten; so the birds was
right about it. Directly it begun to rain, and it rained
like all fury, too, and I never see the wind blow so.
It was one of these regular summer storms. It would
get so dark that it looked all blue-black outside, and
lovely; and the rain would thrash along by so thick
that the trees off a little ways looked dim and spiderwebby;
and here would come a blast of wind that
would bend the trees down and turn up the pale underside
of the leaves; and then a perfect ripper of a gust
would follow along and set the branches to tossing
their arms as if they was just wild; and next, when it
was just about the bluest and blackest -- FST! it was as
bright as glory, and you'd have a little glimpse of treetops
a-plunging about away off yonder in the storm,
hundreds of yards further than you could see before;
dark as sin again in a second, and now you'd hear the
thunder let go with an awful crash, and then go rumbling,
grumbling, tumbling, down the sky towards the
under side of the world, like rolling empty barrels
down stairs -- where it's long stairs and they bounce a
good deal, you know.
"Jim, this is nice," I says. "I wouldn't want to
be nowhere else but here. Pass me along another
hunk of fish and some hot corn-bread."
"Well, you wouldn't a ben here 'f it hadn't a ben
for Jim. You'd a ben down dah in de woods widout
any dinner, en gittn' mos' drownded, too; dat you
would, honey. Chickens knows when it's gwyne to
rain, en so do de birds, chile."
The river went on raising and raising for ten or
twelve days, till at last it was over the banks. The
water was three or four foot deep on the island in the
low places and on the Illinois bottom. On that side it
was a good many miles wide, but on the Missouri side
it was the same old distance across -- a half a mile --
because the Missouri shore was just a wall of high
Daytimes we paddled all over the island in the canoe,
It was mighty cool and shady in the deep woods, even
if the sun was blazing outside. We went winding in
and out amongst the trees, and sometimes the vines
hung so thick we had to back away and go some other
way. Well, on every old broken-down tree you could
see rabbits and snakes and such things; and when
the island had been overflowed a day or two they got
so tame, on account of being hungry, that you could
paddle right up and put your hand on them if you
wanted to; but not the snakes and turtles -- they would
slide off in the water. The ridge our cavern was in
was full of them. We could a had pets enough if we'd
wanted them.
One night we catched a little section of a lumber
raft -- nice pine planks. It was twelve foot wide and
about fifteen or sixteen foot long, and the top stood
above water six or seven inches -- a solid, level floor.
We could see saw-logs go by in the daylight sometimes,
but we let them go; we didn't show ourselves
in daylight.
Another night when we was up at the head of the
island, just before daylight, here comes a frame-house
down, on the west side. She was a two-story, and
tilted over considerable. We paddled out and got
aboard -- clumb in at an upstairs window. But it was
too dark to see yet, so we made the canoe fast and set
in her to wait for daylight.
The light begun to come before we got to the foot
of the island. Then we looked in at the window. We
could make out a bed, and a table, and two old chairs,
and lots of things around about on the floor, and there
was clothes hanging against the wall. There was
something laying on the floor in the far corner that
looked like a man. So Jim says:
"Hello, you!"
But it didn't budge. So I hollered again, and then
Jim says:
"De man ain't asleep -- he's dead. You hold still
-- I'll go en see."
He went, and bent down and looked, and says:
"It's a dead man. Yes, indeedy; naked, too.
He's ben shot in de back. I reck'n he's ben dead
two er three days. Come in, Huck, but doan' look at
his face -- it's too gashly."
I didn't look at him at all. Jim throwed some old
rags over him, but he needn't done it; I didn't want
to see him. There was heaps of old greasy cards
scattered around over the floor, and old whisky bottles,
and a couple of masks made out of black cloth; and
all over the walls was the ignorantest kind of words
and pictures made with charcoal. There was two old
dirty calico dresses, and a sun-bonnet, and some
women's underclothes hanging against the wall, and
some men's clothing, too. We put the lot into the
canoe -- it might come good. There was a boy's old
speckled straw hat on the floor; I took that, too.
And there was a bottle that had had milk in it, and it
had a rag stopper for a baby to suck. We would a
took the bottle, but it was broke. There was a seedy
old chest, and an old hair trunk with the hinges broke.
They stood open, but there warn't nothing left in them
that was any account. The way things was scattered
about we reckoned the people left in a hurry, and
warn't fixed so as to carry off most of their stuff.
We got an old tin lantern, and a butcher-knife without
any handle, and a bran-new Barlow knife worth
two bits in any store, and a lot of tallow candles, and a
tin candlestick, and a gourd, and a tin cup, and a ratty
old bedquilt off the bed, and a reticule with needles
and pins and beeswax and buttons and thread and all
such truck in it, and a hatchet and some nails, and a
fishline as thick as my little finger with some monstrous
hooks on it, and a roll of buckskin, and a
leather dog-collar, and a horseshoe, and some vials of
medicine that didn't have no label on them; and just
as we was leaving I found a tolerable good curry-comb,
and Jim he found a ratty old fiddle-bow, and a wooden
leg. The straps was broke off of it, but, barring that,
it was a good enough leg, though it was too long for
me and not long enough for Jim, and we couldn't find
the other one, though we hunted all around.
And so, take it all around, we made a good haul.
When we was ready to shove off we was a quarter of a
mile below the island, and it was pretty broad day; so
I made Jim lay down in the canoe and cover up with
the quilt, because if he set up people could tell he was
a nigger a good ways off. I paddled over to the
Illinois shore, and drifted down most a half a mile
doing it. I crept up the dead water under the bank,
and hadn't no accidents and didn't see nobody. We
got home all safe.
AFTER breakfast I wanted to talk about the dead
man and guess out how he come to be killed, but
Jim didn't want to. He said it would fetch bad luck;
and besides, he said, he might come and ha'nt us; he
said a man that warn't buried was more likely to go aha'nting
around than one that was planted and comfortable.
That sounded pretty reasonable, so I didn't
say no more; but I couldn't keep from studying over
it and wishing I knowed who shot the man, and what
they done it for.
We rummaged the clothes we'd got, and found eight
dollars in silver sewed up in the lining of an old blanket
overcoat. Jim said he reckoned the people in that
house stole the coat, because if they'd a knowed the
money was there they wouldn't a left it. I said I
reckoned they killed him, too; but Jim didn't want to
talk about that. I says:
"Now you think it's bad luck; but what did you
say when I fetched in the snake-skin that I found on
the top of the ridge day before yesterday? You said
it was the worst bad luck in the world to touch a
snake-skin with my hands. Well, here's your bad
luck! We've raked in all this truck and eight dollars
besides. I wish we could have some bad luck like this
every day, Jim."
"Never you mind, honey, never you mind. Don't
you git too peart. It's a-comin'. Mind I tell you,
it's a-comin'."
It did come, too. It was a Tuesday that we had
that talk. Well, after dinner Friday we was laying
around in the grass at the upper end of the ridge, and
got out of tobacco. I went to the cavern to get some,
and found a rattlesnake in there. I killed him, and
curled him up on the foot of Jim's blanket, ever so
natural, thinking there'd be some fun when Jim found
him there. Well, by night I forgot all about the
snake, and when Jim flung himself down on the blanket
while I struck a light the snake's mate was there, and
bit him.
He jumped up yelling, and the first thing the light
showed was the varmint curled up and ready for
another spring. I laid him out in a second with a
stick, and Jim grabbed pap's whisky-jug and begun to
pour it down.
He was barefooted, and the snake bit him right on
the heel. That all comes of my being such a fool as
to not remember that wherever you leave a dead snake
its mate always comes there and curls around it. Jim
told me to chop off the snake's head and throw it
away, and then skin the body and roast a piece of it.
I done it, and he eat it and said it would help cure
him. He made me take off the rattles and tie them
around his wrist, too. He said that that would help.
Then I slid out quiet and throwed the snakes clear
away amongst the bushes; for I warn't going to let
Jim find out it was all my fault, not if I could help it.
Jim sucked and sucked at the jug, and now and then
he got out of his head and pitched around and yelled;
but every time he come to himself he went to sucking
at the jug again. His foot swelled up pretty big, and
so did his leg; but by and by the drunk begun to
come, and so I judged he was all right; but I'd
druther been bit with a snake than pap's whisky.
Jim was laid up for four days and nights. Then
the swelling was all gone and he was around again. I
made up my mind I wouldn't ever take a-holt of a
snake-skin again with my hands, now that I see what
had come of it. Jim said he reckoned I would believe
him next time. And he said that handling a snakeskin
was such awful bad luck that maybe we hadn't
got to the end of it yet. He said he druther see the
new moon over his left shoulder as much as a thousand
times than take up a snake-skin in his hand. Well, I
was getting to feel that way myself, though I've always
reckoned that looking at the new moon over your left
shoulder is one of the carelessest and foolishest things
a body can do. Old Hank Bunker done it once, and
bragged about it; and in less than two years he got
drunk and fell off of the shot-tower, and spread himself
out so that he was just a kind of a layer, as you
may say; and they slid him edgeways between two
barn doors for a coffin, and buried him so, so they
say, but I didn't see it. Pap told me. But anyway
it all come of looking at the moon that way, like a
Well, the days went along, and the river went down
between its banks again; and about the first thing we
done was to bait one of the big hooks with a skinned
rabbit and set it and catch a catfish that was as big as
a man, being six foot two inches long, and weighed
over two hundred pounds. We couldn't handle him,
of course; he would a flung us into Illinois. We just
set there and watched him rip and tear around till he
drownded. We found a brass button in his stomach
and a round ball, and lots of rubbage. We split the
ball open with the hatchet, and there was a spool in it.
Jim said he'd had it there a long time, to coat it over
so and make a ball of it. It was as big a fish as was
ever catched in the Mississippi, I reckon. Jim said he
hadn't ever seen a bigger one. He would a been
worth a good deal over at the village. They peddle
out such a fish as that by the pound in the markethouse
there; everybody buys some of him; his meat's
as white as snow and makes a good fry.
Next morning I said it was getting slow and dull,
and I wanted to get a stirring up some way. I said I
reckoned I would slip over the river and find out what
was going on. Jim liked that notion; but he said I
must go in the dark and look sharp. Then he studied
it over and said, couldn't I put on some of them old
things and dress up like a girl? That was a good
notion, too. So we shortened up one of the calico
gowns, and I turned up my trouser-legs to my knees
and got into it. Jim hitched it behind with the hooks,
and it was a fair fit. I put on the sun-bonnet and tied
it under my chin, and then for a body to look in and
see my face was like looking down a joint of stovepipe.
Jim said nobody would know me, even in the
daytime, hardly. I practiced around all day to get
the hang of the things, and by and by I could do
pretty well in them, only Jim said I didn't walk like a
girl; and he said I must quit pulling up my gown to
get at my britches-pocket. I took notice, and done
I started up the Illinois shore in the canoe just after
I started across to the town from a little below the
ferry-landing, and the drift of the current fetched me
in at the bottom of the town. I tied up and started
along the bank. There was a light burning in a little
shanty that hadn't been lived in for a long time, and I
wondered who had took up quarters there. I slipped
up and peeped in at the window. There was a woman
about forty year old in there knitting by a candle that
was on a pine table. I didn't know her face; she was
a stranger, for you couldn't start a face in that town
that I didn't know. Now this was lucky, because I
was weakening; I was getting afraid I had come;
people might know my voice and find me out. But if
this woman had been in such a little town two days
she could tell me all I wanted to know; so I knocked
at the door, and made up my mind I wouldn't forget I
was a girl.
"COME in," says the woman, and I did. She
says: "Take a cheer."
I done it. She looked me all over with her little
shiny eyes, and says:
"What might your name be?"
"Sarah Williams."
"Where 'bouts do you live? In this neighborhood?'
"No'm. In Hookerville, seven mile below. I've
walked all the way and I'm all tired out."
"Hungry, too, I reckon. I'll find you something."
"No'm, I ain't hungry. I was so hungry I had to
stop two miles below here at a farm; so I ain't hungry
no more. It's what makes me so late. My mother's
down sick, and out of money and everything, and I
come to tell my uncle Abner Moore. He lives at the
upper end of the town, she says. I hain't ever been
here before. Do you know him?"
"No; but I don't know everybody yet. I haven't
lived here quite two weeks. It's a considerable ways
to the upper end of the town. You better stay here
all night. Take off your bonnet."
"No," I says; "I'll rest a while, I reckon, and go
on. I ain't afeared of the dark."
She said she wouldn't let me go by myself, but her
husband would be in by and by, maybe in a hour and
a half, and she'd send him along with me. Then she
got to talking about her husband, and about her relations
up the river, and her relations down the river,
and about how much better off they used to was, and
how they didn't know but they'd made a mistake
coming to our town, instead of letting well alone --
and so on and so on, till I was afeard I had made a
mistake coming to her to find out what was going on
in the town; but by and by she dropped on to pap
and the murder, and then I was pretty willing to let
her clatter right along. She told about me and Tom
Sawyer finding the six thousand dollars (only she got
it ten) and all about pap and what a hard lot he was,
and what a hard lot I was, and at last she got down to
where I was murdered. I says:
"Who done it? We've heard considerable about
these goings on down in Hookerville, but we don't
know who 'twas that killed Huck Finn."
"Well, I reckon there's a right smart chance of
people HERE that'd like to know who killed him. Some
think old Finn done it himself."
"No -- is that so?"
"Most everybody thought it at first. He'll never
know how nigh he come to getting lynched. But
before night they changed around and judged it was
done by a runaway nigger named Jim."
"Why HE --"
I stopped. I reckoned I better keep still. She run
on, and never noticed I had put in at all:
"The nigger run off the very night Huck Finn was
killed. So there's a reward out for him -- three hundred
dollars. And there's a reward out for old Finn,
too -- two hundred dollars. You see, he come to town
the morning after the murder, and told about it, and
was out with 'em on the ferryboat hunt, and right
away after he up and left. Before night they wanted
to lynch him, but he was gone, you see. Well, next
day they found out the nigger was gone; they found
out he hadn't ben seen sence ten o'clock the night the
murder was done. So then they put it on him, you
see; and while they was full of it, next day, back
comes old Finn, and went boo-hooing to Judge
Thatcher to get money to hunt for the nigger all over
Illinois with. The judge gave him some, and that
evening he got drunk, and was around till after midnight
with a couple of mighty hard-looking strangers,
and then went off with them. Well, he hain't come
back sence, and they ain't looking for him back till
this thing blows over a little, for people thinks now
that he killed his boy and fixed things so folks would
think robbers done it, and then he'd get Huck's money
without having to bother a long time with a lawsuit.
People do say he warn't any too good to do it. Oh,
he's sly, I reckon. If he don't come back for a year
he'll be all right. You can't prove anything on him,
you know; everything will be quieted down then, and
he'll walk in Huck's money as easy as nothing."
"Yes, I reckon so, 'm. I don't see nothing in the
way of it. Has everybody guit thinking the nigger
done it?"
"Oh, no, not everybody. A good many thinks he
done it. But they'll get the nigger pretty soon now,
and maybe they can scare it out of him."
"Why, are they after him yet?"
"Well, you're innocent, ain't you! Does three
hundred dollars lay around every day for people to
pick up? Some folks think the nigger ain't far from
here. I'm one of them -- but I hain't talked it around.
A few days ago I was talking with an old couple that
lives next door in the log shanty, and they happened
to say hardly anybody ever goes to that island over
yonder that they call Jackson's Island. Don't anybody
live there? says I. No, nobody, says they. I
didn't say any more, but I done some thinking. I
was pretty near certain I'd seen smoke over there,
about the head of the island, a day or two before that,
so I says to myself, like as not that nigger's hiding
over there; anyway, says I, it's worth the trouble to
give the place a hunt. I hain't seen any smoke sence,
so I reckon maybe he's gone, if it was him; but
husband's going over to see -- him and another man.
He was gone up the river; but he got back to-day,
and I told him as soon as he got here two hours ago."
I had got so uneasy I couldn't set still. I had to do
something with my hands; so I took up a needle off of
the table and went to threading it. My hands shook,
and I was making a bad job of it. When the woman
stopped talking I looked up, and she was looking at
me pretty curious and smiling a little. I put down the
needle and thread, and let on to be interested -- and I
was, too -- and says:
"Three hundred dollars is a power of money. I
wish my mother could get it. Is your husband going
over there to-night?"
"Oh, yes. He went up-town with the man I was
telling you of, to get a boat and see if they could
borrow another gun. They'll go over after midnight."
"Couldn't they see better if they was to wait till
"Yes. And couldn't the nigger see better, too?
After midnight he'll likely be asleep, and they can slip
around through the woods and hunt up his camp fire
all the better for the dark, if he's got one."
"I didn't think of that."
The woman kept looking at me pretty curious, and
I didn't feel a bit comfortable. Pretty soon she says"
"What did you say your name was, honey?"
"M -- Mary Williams."
Somehow it didn't seem to me that I said it was
Mary before, so I didn't look up -- seemed to me I
said it was Sarah; so I felt sort of cornered, and was
afeared maybe I was looking it, too. I wished the
woman would say something more; the longer she set
still the uneasier I was. But now she says:
"Honey, I thought you said it was Sarah when
you first come in?"
"Oh, yes'm, I did. Sarah Mary Williams. Sarah's
my first name. Some calls me Sarah, some calls me
"Oh, that's the way of it?"
I was feeling better then, but I wished I was out of
there, anyway. I couldn't look up yet.
Well, the woman fell to talking about how hard
times was, and how poor they had to live, and how the
rats was as free as if they owned the place, and so
forth and so on, and then I got easy again. She was
right about the rats. You'd see one stick his nose out
of a hole in the corner every little while. She said she
had to have things handy to throw at them when she
was alone, or they wouldn't give her no peace. She
showed me a bar of lead twisted up into a knot, and
said she was a good shot with it generly, but she'd
wrenched her arm a day or two ago, and didn't know
whether she could throw true now. But she watched
for a chance, and directly banged away at a rat; but
she missed him wide, and said "Ouch!" it hurt her
arm so. Then she told me to try for the next one. I
wanted to be getting away before the old man got
back, but of course I didn't let on. I got the thing,
and the first rat that showed his nose I let drive, and
if he'd a stayed where he was he'd a been a tolerable
sick rat. She said that was first-rate, and she reckoned
I would hive the next one. She went and got the
lump of lead and fetched it back, and brought along a
hank of yarn which she wanted me to help her with.
I held up my two hands and she put the hank over
them, and went on talking about her and her husband's
matters. But she broke off to say:
"Keep your eye on the rats. You better have the
lead in your lap, handy."
So she dropped the lump into my lap just at that
moment, and I clapped my legs together on it and she
went on talking. But only about a minute. Then
she took off the hank and looked me straight in the
face, and very pleasant, and says:
"Come, now, what's your real name?"
"Wh -- what, mum?"
"What's your real name? Is it Bill, or Tom, or
Bob? -- or what is it?"
I reckon I shook like a leaf, and I didn't know
hardly what to do. But I says:
"Please to don't poke fun at a poor girl like me,
mum. If I'm in the way here, I'll --"
"No, you won't. Set down and stay where you
are. I ain't going to hurt you, and I ain't going to
tell on you, nuther. You just tell me your secret, and
trust me. I'll keep it; and, what's more, I'll help
you. So'll my old man if you want him to. You
see, you're a runaway 'prentice, that's all. It ain't
anything. There ain't no harm in it. You've been
treated bad, and you made up your mind to cut.
Bless you, child, I wouldn't tell on you. Tell me all
about it now, that's a good boy."
So I said it wouldn't be no use to try to play it any
longer, and I would just make a clean breast and tell
her everything, but she musn't go back on her promise.
Then I told her my father and mother was dead, and
the law had bound me out to a mean old farmer in the
country thirty mile back from the river, and he treated
me so bad I couldn't stand it no longer; he went away
to be gone a couple of days, and so I took my chance
and stole some of his daughter's old clothes and
cleared out, and I had been three nights coming the
thirty miles. I traveled nights, and hid daytimes and
slept, and the bag of bread and meat I carried from
home lasted me all the way, and I had a-plenty. I
said I believed my uncle Abner Moore would take care
of me, and so that was why I struck out for this town
of Goshen.
"Goshen, child? This ain't Goshen. This is St.
Petersburg. Goshen's ten mile further up the river.
Who told you this was Goshen?"
"Why, a man I met at daybreak this morning, just
as I was going to turn into the woods for my regular
sleep. He told me when the roads forked I must take
the right hand, and five mile would fetch me to
"He was drunk, I reckon. He told you just exactly
"Well,,he did act like he was drunk, but it ain't no
matter now. I got to be moving along. I'll fetch
Goshen before daylight."
"Hold on a minute. I'll put you up a snack to eat.
You might want it."
So she put me up a snack, and says:
"Say, when a cow's laying down, which end of her
gets up first? Answer up prompt now -- don't stop
to study over it. Which end gets up first?"
"The hind end, mum."
"Well, then, a horse?"
"The for'rard end, mum."
"Which side of a tree does the moss grow on?"
"North side."
"If fifteen cows is browsing on a hillside, how
many of them eats with their heads pointed the same
"The whole fifteen, mum."
"Well, I reckon you HAVE lived in the country. I
thought maybe you was trying to hocus me again.
What's your real name, now?"
"George Peters, mum."
"Well, try to remember it, George. Don't forget
and tell me it's Elexander before you go, and then get
out by saying it's George Elexander when I catch you.
And don't go about women in that old calico. You
do a girl tolerable poor, but you might fool men,
maybe. Bless you, child, when you set out to thread
a needle don't hold the thread still and fetch the needle
up to it; hold the needle still and poke the thread at
it; that's the way a woman most always does, but a
man always does t'other way. And when you throw
at a rat or anything, hitch yourself up a tiptoe and
fetch your hand up over your head as awkward as you
can, and miss your rat about six or seven foot. Throw
stiff-armed from the shoulder, like there was a pivot
there for it to turn on, like a girl; not from the wrist
and elbow, with your arm out to one side, like a boy.
And, mind you, when a girl tries to catch anything in
her lap she throws her knees apart; she don't clap
them together, the way you did when you catched the
lump of lead. Why, I spotted you for a boy when
you was threading the needle; and I contrived the
other things just to make certain. Now trot along to
your uncle, Sarah Mary Williams George Elexander
Peters, and if you get into trouble you send word to
Mrs. Judith Loftus, which is me, and I'll do what I
can to get you out of it. Keep the river road all the
way, and next time you tramp take shoes and socks
with you. The river road's a rocky one, and your
feet'll be in a condition when you get to Goshen, I
I went up the bank about fifty yards, and then I
doubled on my tracks and slipped back to where my
canoe was, a good piece below the house. I jumped
in, and was off in a hurry. I went up-stream far
enough to make the head of the island, and then
started across. I took off the sun-bonnet, for I didn't
want no blinders on then. When I was about the
middle I heard the clock begin to strike, so I stops
and listens; the sound come faint over the water but
clear -- eleven. When I struck the head of the island
I never waited to blow, though I was most winded, but
I shoved right into the timber where my old camp used
to be, and started a good fire there on a high and dry
Then I jumped in the canoe and dug out for our
place, a mile and a half below, as hard as I could go.
I landed, and slopped through the timber and up the
ridge and into the cavern. There Jim laid, sound
asleep on the ground. I roused him out and says:
"Git up and hump yourself, Jim! There ain't a
minute to lose. They're after us!"
Jim never asked no questions, he never said a word;
but the way he worked for the next half an hour
showed about how he was scared. By that time everything
we had in the world was on our raft, and she was
ready to be shoved out from the willow cove where she
was hid. We put out the camp fire at the cavern the
first thing, and didn't show a candle outside after that.
I took the canoe out from the shore a little piece,
and took a look; but if there was a boat around I
couldn't see it, for stars and shadows ain't good to see
by. Then we got out the raft and slipped along down
in the shade, past the foot of the island dead still --
never saying a word.
IT must a been close on to one o'clock when we
got below the island at last, and the raft did seem
to go mighty slow. If a boat was to come along we
was going to take to the canoe and break for the
Illinois shore; and it was well a boat didn't come, for
we hadn't ever thought to put the gun in the canoe,
or a fishing-line, or anything to eat. We was in
ruther too much of a sweat to think of so many things.
It warn't good judgment to put EVERYTHING on the raft.
If the men went to the island I just expect they
found the camp fire I built, and watched it all night for
Jim to come. Anyways, they stayed away from us,
and if my building the fire never fooled them it warn't
no fault of mine. I played it as low down on them as
I could.
When the first streak of day began to show we tied
up to a towhead in a big bend on the Illinois side, and
hacked off cottonwood branches with the hatchet,
and covered up the raft with them so she looked like
there had been a cave-in in the bank there. A towhead
is a sandbar that has cottonwoods on it as thick
as harrow-teeth.
We had mountains on the Missouri shore and heavy
timber on the Illinois side, and the channel was down
the Missouri shore at that place, so we warn't afraid of
anybody running across us. We laid there all day,
and watched the rafts and steamboats spin down the
Missouri shore, and up-bound steamboats fight the big
river in the middle. I told Jim all about the time I
had jabbering with that woman; and Jim said she was
a smart one, and if she was to start after us herself she
wouldn't set down and watch a camp fire -- no, sir,
she'd fetch a dog. Well, then, I said, why couldn't
she tell her husband to fetch a dog? Jim said he bet
she did think of it by the time the men was ready to
start, and he believed they must a gone up-town to get
a dog and so they lost all that time, or else we
wouldn't be here on a towhead sixteen or seventeen
mile below the village -- no, indeedy, we would be in
that same old town again. So I said I didn't care
what was the reason they didn't get us as long as they
When it was beginning to come on dark we poked
our heads out of the cottonwood thicket, and looked
up and down and across; nothing in sight; so Jim
took up some of the top planks of the raft and built a
snug wigwam to get under in blazing weather and
rainy, and to keep the things dry. Jim made a floor
for the wigwam, and raised it a foot or more above the
level of the raft, so now the blankets and all the traps
was out of reach of steamboat waves. Right in the
middle of the wigwam we made a layer of dirt about
five or six inches deep with a frame around it for to
hold it to its place; this was to build a fire on in
sloppy weather or chilly; the wigwam would keep it
from being seen. We made an extra steering-oar,
too, because one of the others might get broke on a
snag or something. We fixed up a short forked stick
to hang the old lantern on, because we must always
light the lantern whenever we see a steamboat coming
down-stream, to keep from getting run over; but we
wouldn't have to light it for up-stream boats unless we
see we was in what they call a "crossing"; for the
river was pretty high yet, very low banks being still a
little under water; so up-bound boats didn't always
run the channel, but hunted easy water.
This second night we run between seven and eight
hours, with a current that was making over four mile
an hour. We catched fish and talked, and we took a
swim now and then to keep off sleepiness. It was
kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying
on our backs looking up at the stars, and we didn't
ever feel like talking loud, and it warn't often that we
laughed -- only a little kind of a low chuckle. We
had mighty good weather as a general thing, and nothing
ever happened to us at all -- that night, nor the
next, nor the next.
Every night we passed towns, some of them away
up on black hillsides, nothing but just a shiny bed of
lights; not a house could you see. The fifth night we
passed St. Louis, and it was like the whole world lit
up. In St. Petersburg they used to say there was
twenty or thirty thousand people in St. Louis, but I
never believed it till I see that wonderful spread of
lights at two o'clock that still night. There warn't a
sound there; everybody was asleep.
Every night now I used to slip ashore towards ten
o'clock at some little village, and buy ten or fifteen
cents' worth of meal or bacon or other stuff to eat;
and sometimes I lifted a chicken that warn't roosting
comfortable, and took him along. Pap always said,
take a chicken when you get a chance, because if you
don't want him yourself you can easy find somebody
that does, and a good deed ain't ever forgot. I never
see pap when he didn't want the chicken himself, but
that is what he used to say, anyway.
Mornings before daylight I slipped into cornfields
and borrowed a watermelon, or a mushmelon, or a
punkin, or some new corn, or things of that kind.
Pap always said it warn't no harm to borrow things if
you was meaning to pay them back some time; but
the widow said it warn't anything but a soft name for
stealing, and no decent body would do it. Jim said he
reckoned the widow was partly right and pap was partly
right; so the best way would be for us to pick out two
or three things from the list and say we wouldn't borrow
them any more -- then he reckoned it wouldn't be no
harm to borrow the others. So we talked it over all
one night, drifting along down the river, trying to
make up our minds whether to drop the watermelons,
or the cantelopes, or the mushmelons, or what. But
towards daylight we got it all settled satisfactory, and
concluded to drop crabapples and p'simmons. We
warn't feeling just right before that, but it was all
comfortable now. I was glad the way it come out,
too, because crabapples ain't ever good, and the
p'simmons wouldn't be ripe for two or three months
We shot a water-fowl now and then that got up too
early in the morning or didn't go to bed early enough
in the evening. Take it all round, we lived pretty high.
The fifth night below St. Louis we had a big storm
after midnight, with a power of thunder and lightning,
and the rain poured down in a solid sheet. We stayed
in the wigwam and let the raft take care of itself.
When the lightning glared out we could see a big
straight river ahead, and high, rocky bluffs on both
sides. By and by says I, "Hel-LO, Jim, looky yonder!"
It was a steamboat that had killed herself on a
rock. We was drifting straight down for her. The
lightning showed her very distinct. She was leaning
over, with part of her upper deck above water, and
you could see every little chimbly-guy clean and clear,
and a chair by the big bell, with an old slouch hat
hanging on the back of it, when the flashes come.
Well, it being away in the night and stormy, and all
so mysterious-like, I felt just the way any other boy
would a felt when I see that wreck laying there so
mournful and lonesome in the middle of the river. I
wanted to get aboard of her and slink around a little,
and see what there was there. So I says:
"Le's land on her, Jim."
But Jim was dead against it at first. He says:
"I doan' want to go fool'n 'long er no wrack.
We's doin' blame' well, en we better let blame' well
alone, as de good book says. Like as not dey's a
watchman on dat wrack."
"Watchman your grandmother," I says; "there
ain't nothing to watch but the texas and the pilothouse;
and do you reckon anybody's going to resk his
life for a texas and a pilot-house such a night as this,
when it's likely to break up and wash off down the
river any minute?" Jim couldn't say nothing to that,
so he didn't try. "And besides," I says, "we might
borrow something worth having out of the captain's
stateroom. Seegars, I bet you -- and cost five cents
apiece, solid cash. Steamboat captains is always rich,
and get sixty dollars a month, and THEY don't care a
cent what a thing costs, you know, long as they want
it. Stick a candle in your pocket; I can't rest, Jim,
till we give her a rummaging. Do you reckon Tom
Sawyer would ever go by this thing? Not for pie, he
wouldn't. He'd call it an adventure -- that's what
he'd call it; and he'd land on that wreck if it was his
last act. And wouldn't he throw style into it? --
wouldn't he spread himself, nor nothing? Why,
you'd think it was Christopher C'lumbus discovering
Kingdom-Come. I wish Tom Sawyer WAS here."
Jim he grumbled a little, but give in. He said we
mustn't talk any more than we could help, and then
talk mighty low. The lightning showed us the wreck
again just in time, and we fetched the stabboard
derrick, and made fast there.
The deck was high out here. We went sneaking down
the slope of it to labboard, in the dark, towards the
texas, feeling our way slow with our feet, and spreading
our hands out to fend off the guys, for it was so dark
we couldn't see no sign of them. Pretty soon we
struck the forward end of the skylight, and clumb on
to it; and the next step fetched us in front of the
captain's door, which was open, and by Jimminy,
away down through the texas-hall we see a light! and
all in the same second we seem to hear low voices in
Jim whispered and said he was feeling powerful
sick, and told me to come along. I says, all right,
and was going to start for the raft; but just then I
heard a voice wail out and say:
"Oh, please don't, boys; I swear I won't ever
Another voice said, pretty loud:
"It's a lie, Jim Turner. You've acted this way
before. You always want more'n your share of the
truck, and you've always got it, too, because you've
swore 't if you didn't you'd tell. But this time you've
said it jest one time too many. You're the meanest,
treacherousest hound in this country."
By this time Jim was gone for the raft. I was just
a-biling with curiosity; and I says to myself, Tom
Sawyer wouldn't back out now, and so I won't either;
I'm a-going to see what's going on here. So I
dropped on my hands and knees in the little passage,
and crept aft in the dark till there warn't but one
stateroom betwixt me and the cross-hall of the texas.
Then in there I see a man stretched on the floor and
tied hand and foot, and two men standing over him,
and one of them had a dim lantern in his hand, and
the other one had a pistol. This one kept pointing
the pistol at the man's head on the floor, and saying:
"I'd LIKE to! And I orter, too -- a mean skunk!"
The man on the floor would shrivel up and say,
"Oh, please don't, Bill; I hain't ever goin' to tell."
And every time he said that the man with the lantern
would laugh and say:
"'Deed you AIN'T! You never said no truer thing
'n that, you bet you." And once he said: "Hear
him beg! and yit if we hadn't got the best of him and
tied him he'd a killed us both. And what FOR? Jist
for noth'n. Jist because we stood on our RIGHTS --
that's what for. But I lay you ain't a-goin' to threaten
nobody any more, Jim Turner. Put UP that pistol,
Bill says:
"I don't want to, Jake Packard. I'm for killin'
him -- and didn't he kill old Hatfield jist the same
way -- and don't he deserve it?"
"But I don't WANT him killed, and I've got my
reasons for it."
"Bless yo' heart for them words, Jake Packard!
I'll never forgit you long's I live!" says the man on
the floor, sort of blubbering.
Packard didn't take no notice of that, but hung up
his lantern on a nail and started towards where I was
there in the dark, and motioned Bill to come. I
crawfished as fast as I could about two yards, but the
boat slanted so that I couldn't make very good time;
so to keep from getting run over and catched I crawled
into a stateroom on the upper side. The man came apawing
along in the dark, and when Packard got to
my stateroom, he says:
"Here -- come in here."
And in he come, and Bill after him. But before
they got in I was up in the upper berth, cornered, and
sorry I come. Then they stood there, with their hands
on the ledge of the berth, and talked. I couldn't see
them, but I could tell where they was by the whisky
they'd been having. I was glad I didn't drink whisky;
but it wouldn't made much difference anyway, because
most of the time they couldn't a treed me because I
didn't breathe. I was too scared. And, besides, a
body COULDN'T breathe and hear such talk. They
talked low and earnest. Bill wanted to kill Turner.
He says:
"He's said he'll tell, and he will. If we was to
give both our shares to him NOW it wouldn't make no
difference after the row and the way we've served him.
Shore's you're born, he'll turn State's evidence; now
you hear ME. I'm for putting him out of his troubles."
"So'm I," says Packard, very quiet.
"Blame it, I'd sorter begun to think you wasnUt.
Well, then, that's all right. Le's go and do it."
"Hold on a minute; I hain't had my say yit. You
listen to me. Shooting's good, but there's quieter
ways if the thing's GOT to be done. But what I say is
this: it ain't good sense to go court'n around after a
halter if you can git at what you're up to in some
way that's jist as good and at the same time don't
bring you into no resks. Ain't that so?"
"You bet it is. But how you goin' to manage it
this time?"
"Well, my idea is this: we'll rustle around and gather
up whatever pickins we've overlooked in the staterooms,
and shove for shore and hide the truck. Then
we'll wait. Now I say it ain't a-goin' to be more'n
two hours befo' this wrack breaks up and washes off
down the river. See? He'll be drownded, and won't
have nobody to blame for it but his own self. I
reckon that's a considerble sight better 'n killin' of
him. I'm unfavorable to killin' a man as long as you
can git aroun' it; it ain't good sense, it ain't good
morals. Ain't I right?"
"Yes, I reck'n you are. But s'pose she DON'T
break up and wash off?"
"Well, we can wait the two hours anyway and see,
can't we?"
"All right, then; come along."
So they started, and I lit out, all in a cold sweat,
and scrambled forward. It was dark as pitch there;
but I said, in a kind of a coarse whisper, "Jim !" and
he answered up, right at my elbow, with a sort of a
moan, and I says:
"Quick, Jim, it ain't no time for fooling around
and moaning; there's a gang of murderers in yonder,
and if we don't hunt up their boat and set her drifting
down the river so these fellows can't get away from the
wreck there's one of 'em going to be in a bad fix.
But if we find their boat we can put ALL of 'em in a
bad fix -- for the sheriff 'll get 'em. Quick -- hurry!
I'll hunt the labboard side, you hunt the stabboard.
You start at the raft, and --"
"Oh, my lordy, lordy! RAF'? Dey ain' no raf'
no mo'; she done broke loose en gone I -- en here
we is!"
WELL, I catched my breath and most fainted.
Shut up on a wreck with such a gang as that!
But it warn't no time to be sentimentering. We'd GOT
to find that boat now -- had to have it for ourselves.
So we went a-quaking and shaking down the stabboard
side, and slow work it was, too -- seemed a week before
we got to the stern. No sign of a boat. Jim
said he didn't believe he could go any further -- so
scared he hadn't hardly any strength left, he said.
But I said, come on, if we get left on this wreck we
are in a fix, sure. So on we prowled again. We
struck for the stern of the texas, and found it, and
then scrabbled along forwards on the skylight, hanging
on from shutter to shutter, for the edge of the skylight
was in the water. When we got pretty close to the
cross-hall door there was the skiff, sure enough! I
could just barely see her. I felt ever so thankful. In
another second I would a been aboard of her, but just
then the door opened. One of the men stuck his head
out only about a couple of foot from me, and I thought
I was gone; but he jerked it in again, and says:
"Heave that blame lantern out o' sight, Bill!"
He flung a bag of something into the boat, and then
got in himself and set down. It was Packard. Then
Bill HE come out and got in. Packard says, in a low
"All ready -- shove off!"
I couldn't hardly hang on to the shutters, I was so
weak. But Bill says:
"Hold on -- 'd you go through him?"
"No. Didn't you?"
"No. So he's got his share o' the cash yet."
"Well, then, come along; no use to take truck and
leave money."
"Say, won't he suspicion what we're up to?"
"Maybe he won't. But we got to have it anyway.
Come along."
So they got out and went in.
The door slammed to because it was on the careened
side; and in a half second I was in the boat, and Jim
come tumbling after me. I out with my knife and cut
the rope, and away we went!
We didn't touch an oar, and we didn't speak nor
whisper, nor hardly even breathe. We went gliding
swift along, dead silent, past the tip of the paddlebox,
and past the stern; then in a second or two more
we was a hundred yards below the wreck, and the
darkness soaked her up, every last sign of her, and we
was safe, and knowed it.
When we was three or four hundred yards downstream
we see the lantern show like a little spark at the
texas door for a second, and we knowed by that that
the rascals had missed their boat, and was beginning
to understand that they was in just as much trouble now
as Jim Turner was.
Then Jim manned the oars, and we took out after
our raft. Now was the first time that I begun to worry
about the men -- I reckon I hadn't had time to before.
I begun to think how dreadful it was, even for murderers,
to be in such a fix. I says to myself, there
ain't no telling but I might come to be a murderer
myself yet, and then how would I like it? So says I
to Jim:
"The first light we see we'll land a hundred yards
below it or above it, in a place where it's a good
hiding-place for you and the skiff, and then I'll go and
fix up some kind of a yarn, and get somebody to go
for that gang and get them out of their scrape, so they
can be hung when their time comes."
But that idea was a failure; for pretty soon it begun
to storm again, and this time worse than ever. The
rain poured down, and never a light showed; everybody
in bed, I reckon. We boomed along down the
river, watching for lights and watching for our raft.
After a long time the rain let up, but the clouds
stayed, and the lightning kept whimpering, and by and
by a flash showed us a black thing ahead, floating, and
we made for it.
It was the raft, and mighty glad was we to get
aboard of it again. We seen a light now away down
to the right, on shore. So I said I would go for it.
The skiff was half full of plunder which that gang had
stole there on the wreck. We hustled it on to the raft
in a pile, and I told Jim to float along down, and show
a light when he judged he had gone about two mile,
and keep it burning till I come; then I manned my
oars and shoved for the light. As I got down towards
it three or four more showed -- up on a hillside. It
was a village. I closed in above the shore light, and
laid on my oars and floated. As I went by I see it
was a lantern hanging on the jackstaff of a double-hull
ferryboat. I skimmed around for the watchman, awondering
whereabouts he slept; and by and by I
found him roosting on the bitts forward, with his head
down between his knees. I gave his shoulder two or
three little shoves, and begun to cry.
He stirred up in a kind of a startlish way; but when
he see it was only me he took a good gap and stretch,
and then he says:
"Hello, what's up? Don't cry, bub. What's the
I says:
"Pap, and mam, and sis, and --"
Then I broke down. He says:
"Oh, dang it now, DON'T take on so; we all has to
have our troubles, and this 'n 'll come out all right.
What's the matter with 'em?"
"They're -- they're -- are you the watchman of the
"Yes," he says, kind of pretty-well-satisfied like.
"I'm the captain and the owner and the mate and the
pilot and watchman and head deck-hand; and sometimes
I'm the freight and passengers. I ain't as rich
as old Jim Hornback, and I can't be so blame' generous
and good to Tom, Dick, and Harry as what he is,
and slam around money the way he does; but I've
told him a many a time 't I wouldn't trade places with
him; for, says I, a sailor's life's the life for me, and
I'm derned if I'D live two mile out o' town, where
there ain't nothing ever goin' on, not for all his spondulicks
and as much more on top of it. Says I --"
I broke in and says:
"They're in an awful peck of trouble, and --"
"WHO is?"
"Why, pap and mam and sis and Miss Hooker;
and if you'd take your ferryboat and go up there --"
"Up where? Where are they?"
"On the wreck."
"What wreck?"
"Why, there ain't but one."
"What, you don't mean the Walter Scott?"
"Good land! what are they doin' THERE, for gracious
"Well, they didn't go there a-purpose."
"I bet they didn't! Why, great goodness, there
ain't no chance for 'em if they don't git off mighty
quick! Why, how in the nation did they ever git into
such a scrape?"
"Easy enough. Miss Hooker was a-visiting up
there to the town --"
"Yes, Booth's Landing -- go on."
"She was a-visiting there at Booth's Landing, and
just in the edge of the evening she started over with
her nigger woman in the horse-ferry to stay all night
at her friend's house, Miss What-you-may-call-her I
disremember her name -- and they lost their steeringoar,
and swung around and went a-floating down,
stern first, about two mile, and saddle-baggsed on the
wreck, and the ferryman and the nigger woman and
the horses was all lost, but Miss Hooker she made a
grab and got aboard the wreck. Well, about an hour
after dark we come along down in our trading-scow,
and it was so dark we didn't notice the wreck till we
was right on it; and so WE saddle-baggsed; but all of
us was saved but Bill Whipple -- and oh, he WAS the
best cretur ! -- I most wish 't it had been me, I do."
"My George! It's the beatenest thing I ever
struck. And THEN what did you all do?"
"Well, we hollered and took on, but it's so wide
there we couldn't make nobody hear. So pap said
somebody got to get ashore and get help somehow. I
was the only one that could swim, so I made a dash
for it, and Miss Hooker she said if I didn't strike help
sooner, come here and hunt up her uncle, and he'd
fix the thing. I made the land about a mile below,
and been fooling along ever since, trying to get people
to do something, but they said, 'What, in such a night
and such a current? There ain't no sense in it; go
for the steam ferry.' Now if you'll go and --"
"By Jackson, I'd LIKE to, and, blame it, I don't
know but I will; but who in the dingnation's a-going'
to PAY for it? Do you reckon your pap --"
"Why THAT'S all right. Miss Hooker she tole me,
PARTICULAR, that her uncle Hornback --"
"Great guns! is HE her uncle? Looky here, you
break for that light over yonder-way, and turn out
west when you git there, and about a quarter of a mile
out you'll come to the tavern; tell 'em to dart you
out to Jim Hornback's, and he'll foot the bill. And
don't you fool around any, because he'll want to know
the news. Tell him I'll have his niece all safe before
he can get to town. Hump yourself, now; I'm agoing
up around the corner here to roust out my
I struck for the light, but as soon as he turned the
corner I went back and got into my skiff and bailed her
out, and then pulled up shore in the easy water about
six hundred yards, and tucked myself in among some
woodboats; for I couldn't rest easy till I could see
the ferryboat start. But take it all around, I was feeling
ruther comfortable on accounts of taking all this
trouble for that gang, for not many would a done it.
I wished the widow knowed about it. I judged she
would be proud of me for helping these rapscallions,
because rapscallions and dead beats is the kind the
widow and good people takes the most interest in.
Well, before long here comes the wreck, dim and
dusky, sliding along down! A kind of cold shiver
went through me, and then I struck out for her. She
was very deep, and I see in a minute there warn't much
chance for anybody being alive in her. I pulled all
around her and hollered a little, but there wasn't any
answer; all dead still. I felt a little bit heavy-hearted
about the gang, but not much, for I reckoned if they
could stand it I could.
Then here comes the ferryboat; so I shoved for the
middle of the river on a long down-stream slant; and
when I judged I was out of eye-reach I laid on my
oars, and looked back and see her go and smell around
the wreck for Miss Hooker's remainders, because the
captain would know her uncle Hornback would want
them; and then pretty soon the ferryboat give it up
and went for the shore, and I laid into my work and
went a-booming down the river.
It did seem a powerful long time before Jim's light
showed up; and when it did show it looked like it was
a thousand mile off. By the time I got there the sky
was beginning to get a little gray in the east; so we
struck for an island, and hid the raft, and sunk the
skiff, and turned in and slept like dead people.
BY and by, when we got up, we turned over the
truck the gang had stole off of the wreck, and
found boots, and blankets, and clothes, and all sorts of
other things, and a lot of books, and a spyglass, and
three boxes of seegars. We hadn't ever been this rich
before in neither of our lives. The seegars was prime.
We laid off all the afternoon in the woods talking, and
me reading the books, and having a general good time.
I told Jim all about what happened inside the wreck
and at the ferryboat, and I said these kinds of things
was adventures; but he said he didn't want no more
adventures. He said that when I went in the texas
and he crawled back to get on the raft and found her
gone he nearly died, because he judged it was all up
with HIM anyway it could be fixed; for if he didn't get
saved he would get drownded; and if he did get
saved, whoever saved him would send him back home
so as to get the reward, and then Miss Watson would
sell him South, sure. Well, he was right; he was
most always right; he had an uncommon level head
for a nigger.
I read considerable to Jim about kings and dukes
and earls and such, and how gaudy they dressed, and
how much style they put on, and called each other
your majesty, and your grace, and your lordship, and
so on, 'stead of mister; and Jim's eyes bugged out,
and he was interested. He says:
"I didn' know dey was so many un um. I hain't
hearn 'bout none un um, skasely, but ole King Sollermun,
onless you counts dem kings dat's in a pack er
k'yards. How much do a king git?"
"Get?" I says; "why, they get a thousand dollars
a month if they want it; they can have just as much
as they want; everything belongs to them."
"AIN' dat gay? En what dey got to do, Huck?"
"THEY don't do nothing! Why, how you talk!
They just set around."
"No; is dat so?"
"Of course it is. They just set around -- except,
maybe, when there's a war; then they go to the war.
But other times they just lazy around; or go hawking
-- just hawking and sp -- Sh! -- d' you hear a noise?"
We skipped out and looked; but it warn't nothing
but the flutter of a steamboat's wheel away down,
coming around the point; so we come back.
"Yes," says I, "and other times, when things is
dull, they fuss with the parlyment; and if everybody
don't go just so he whacks their heads off. But
mostly they hang round the harem."
"Roun' de which?"
"What's de harem?"
"The place where he keeps his wives. Don't you
know about the harem? Solomon had one; he had
about a million wives."
"Why, yes, dat's so; I -- I'd done forgot it. A
harem's a bo'd'n-house, I reck'n. Mos' likely dey
has rackety times in de nussery. En I reck'n de wives
quarrels considable; en dat 'crease de racket. Yit dey
say Sollermun de wises' man dat ever live'. I doan'
take no stock in dat. Bekase why: would a wise man
want to live in de mids' er sich a blim-blammin' all de
time? No -- 'deed he wouldn't. A wise man 'ud take
en buil' a biler-factry; en den he could shet DOWN de
biler-factry when he want to res'."
"Well, but he WAS the wisest man, anyway; because
the widow she told me so, her own self."
"I doan k'yer what de widder say, he WARN'T no
wise man nuther. He had some er de dad-fetchedes'
ways I ever see. Does you know 'bout dat chile dat
he 'uz gwyne to chop in two?"
"Yes, the widow told me all about it."
"WELL, den! Warn' dat de beatenes' notion in de
worl'? You jes' take en look at it a minute. Dah's
de stump, dah -- dat's one er de women; heah's you
-- dat's de yuther one; I's Sollermun; en dish yer
dollar bill's de chile. Bofe un you claims it. What
does I do? Does I shin aroun' mongs' de neighbors
en fine out which un you de bill DO b'long to, en han'
it over to de right one, all safe en soun', de way dat
anybody dat had any gumption would? No; I take
en whack de bill in TWO, en give half un it to you, en
de yuther half to de yuther woman. Dat's de way
Sollermun was gwyne to do wid de chile. Now I
want to ast you: what's de use er dat half a bill? --
can't buy noth'n wid it. En what use is a half a
chile? I wouldn' give a dern for a million un um."
"But hang it, Jim, you've clean missed the point --
blame it, you've missed it a thousand mile."
"Who? Me? Go 'long. Doan' talk to me 'bout
yo' pints. I reck'n I knows sense when I sees it; en
dey ain' no sense in sich doin's as dat. De 'spute
warn't 'bout a half a chile, de 'spute was 'bout a
whole chile; en de man dat think he kin settle a
'spute 'bout a whole chile wid a half a chile doan'
know enough to come in out'n de rain. Doan' talk
to me 'bout Sollermun, Huck, I knows him by de back."
"But I tell you you don't get the point."
"Blame de point! I reck'n I knows what I knows.
En mine you, de REAL pint is down furder -- it's down
deeper. It lays in de way Sollermun was raised.
You take a man dat's got on'y one or two chillen; is
dat man gwyne to be waseful o' chillen? No, he
ain't; he can't 'ford it. HE know how to value 'em.
But you take a man dat's got 'bout five million chillen
runnin' roun' de house, en it's diffunt. HE as soon
chop a chile in two as a cat. Dey's plenty mo'. A
chile er two, mo' er less, warn't no consekens to
Sollermun, dad fatch him!"
I never see such a nigger. If he got a notion in his
head once, there warn't no getting it out again. He
was the most down on Solomon of any nigger I ever
see. So I went to talking about other kings, and let
Solomon slide. I told about Louis Sixteenth that got
his head cut off in France long time ago; and about
his little boy the dolphin, that would a been a king,
but they took and shut him up in jail, and some say he
died there.
"Po' little chap."
"But some says he got out and got away, and come
to America."
"Dat's good! But he'll be pooty lonesome -- dey
ain' no kings here, is dey, Huck?"
"Den he cain't git no situation. What he gwyne
to do?"
"Well, I don't know. Some of them gets on the
police, and some of them learns people how to talk
"Why, Huck, doan' de French people talk de same
way we does?"
"NO, Jim; you couldn't understand a word they
said -- not a single word."
"Well, now, I be ding-busted! How do dat
"I don't know; but it's so. I got some of their
jabber out of a book. S'pose a man was to come to
you and say Polly-voo-franzy -- what would you
"I wouldn' think nuff'n; I'd take en bust him over
de head -- dat is, if he warn't white. I wouldn't 'low
no nigger to call me dat."
"Shucks, it ain't calling you anything. It's only
saying, do you know how to talk French?"
"Well, den, why couldn't he SAY it?"
"Why, he IS a-saying it. That's a Frenchman's
WAY of saying it."
"Well, it's a blame ridicklous way, en I doan' want
to hear no mo' 'bout it. Dey ain' no sense in it."
"Looky here, Jim; does a cat talk like we do?"
"No, a cat don't."
"Well, does a cow?"
"No, a cow don't, nuther."
"Does a cat talk like a cow, or a cow talk like a
"No, dey don't."
"It's natural and right for 'em to talk different from
each other, ain't it?"
"And ain't it natural and right for a cat and a cow
to talk different from US?"
"Why, mos' sholy it is."
"Well, then, why ain't it natural and right for a
FRENCHMAN to talk different from us? You answer me
"Is a cat a man, Huck?"
"Well, den, dey ain't no sense in a cat talkin' like a
man. Is a cow a man? -- er is a cow a cat?"
"No, she ain't either of them."
"Well, den, she ain't got no business to talk like
either one er the yuther of 'em. Is a Frenchman a
"WELL, den! Dad blame it, why doan' he TALK like
a man? You answer me DAT!"
I see it warn't no use wasting words -- you can't
learn a nigger to argue. So I quit.
WE judged that three nights more would fetch us to
Cairo, at the bottom of Illinois, where the Ohio
River comes in, and that was what we was after. We
would sell the raft and get on a steamboat and go way
up the Ohio amongst the free States, and then be out
of trouble.
Well, the second night a fog begun to come on, and
we made for a towhead to tie to, for it wouldn't do to
try to run in a fog; but when I paddled ahead in the
canoe, with the line to make fast, there warn't anything
but little saplings to tie to. I passed the line
around one of them right on the edge of the cut bank,
but there was a stiff current, and the raft come booming
down so lively she tore it out by the roots and
away she went. I see the fog closing down, and it
made me so sick and scared I couldn't budge for most
a half a minute it seemed to me -- and then there warn't
no raft in sight; you couldn't see twenty yards. I
jumped into the canoe and run back to the stern, and
grabbed the paddle and set her back a stroke. But
she didn't come. I was in such a hurry I hadn't
untied her. I got up and tried to untie her, but I was
so excited my hands shook so I couldn't hardly do
anything with them.
As soon as I got started I took out after the raft,
hot and heavy, right down the towhead. That was
all right as far as it went, but the towhead warn't
sixty yards long, and the minute I flew by the foot of
it I shot out into the solid white fog, and hadn't no
more idea which way I was going than a dead man.
Thinks I, it won't do to paddle; first I know I'll
run into the bank or a towhead or something; I got
to set still and float, and yet it's mighty fidgety business
to have to hold your hands still at such a time. I
whooped and listened. Away down there somewheres
I hears a small whoop, and up comes my spirits. I
went tearing after it, listening sharp to hear it again.
The next time it come I see I warn't heading for it,
but heading away to the right of it. And the next
time I was heading away to the left of it -- and not
gaining on it much either, for I was flying around, this
way and that and t'other, but it was going straight
ahead all the time.
I did wish the fool would think to beat a tin pan,
and beat it all the time, but he never did, and it was
the still places between the whoops that was making
the trouble for me. Well, I fought along, and directly
I hears the whoop BEHIND me. I was tangled good
now. That was somebody else's whoop, or else I was
turned around.
I throwed the paddle down. I heard the whoop
again; it was behind me yet, but in a different place;
it kept coming, and kept changing its place, and I kept
answering, till by and by it was in front of me again,
and I knowed the current had swung the canoe's head
down-stream, and I was all right if that was Jim and
not some other raftsman hollering. I couldn't tell
nothing about voices in a fog, for nothing don't look
natural nor sound natural in a fog.
The whooping went on, and in about a minute I
come a-booming down on a cut bank with smoky
ghosts of big trees on it, and the current throwed me
off to the left and shot by, amongst a lot of snags that
fairly roared, the currrent was tearing by them so swift.
In another second or two it was solid white and still
again. I set perfectly still then, listening to my heart
thump, and I reckon I didn't draw a breath while it
thumped a hundred.
I just give up then. I knowed what the matter was.
That cut bank was an island, and Jim had gone down
t'other side of it. It warn't no towhead that you
could float by in ten minutes. It had the big timber
of a regular island; it might be five or six miles long
and more than half a mile wide.
I kept quiet, with my ears cocked, about fifteen
minutes, I reckon. I was floating along, of course,
four or five miles an hour; but you don't ever think
of that. No, you FEEL like you are laying dead still on
the water; and if a little glimpse of a snag slips by
you don't think to yourself how fast YOU'RE going, but
you catch your breath and think, my! how that snag's
tearing along. If you think it ain't dismal and lonesome
out in a fog that way by yourself in the night,
you try it once -- you'll see.
Next, for about a half an hour, I whoops now and
then; at last I hears the answer a long ways off, and
tries to follow it, but I couldn't do it, and directly I
judged I'd got into a nest of towheads, for I had little
dim glimpses of them on both sides of me -- sometimes
just a narrow channel between, and some that I
couldn't see I knowed was there because I'd hear the
wash of the current against the old dead brush and
trash that hung over the banks. Well, I warn't long
loosing the whoops down amongst the towheads; and
I only tried to chase them a little while, anyway, because
it was worse than chasing a Jack-o'-lantern.
You never knowed a sound dodge around so, and
swap places so quick and so much.
I had to claw away from the bank pretty lively four
or five times, to keep from knocking the islands out of
the river; and so I judged the raft must be butting
into the bank every now and then, or else it would get
further ahead and clear out of hearing -- it was floating
a little faster than what I was.
Well, I seemed to be in the open river again by and
by, but I couldn't hear no sign of a whoop nowheres.
I reckoned Jim had fetched up on a snag, maybe, and
it was all up with him. I was good and tired, so I laid
down in the canoe and said I wouldn't bother no
more. I didn't want to go to sleep, of course; but I
was so sleepy I couldn't help it; so I thought I would
take jest one little cat-nap.
But I reckon it was more than a cat-nap, for when I
waked up the stars was shining bright, the fog was all
gone, and I was spinning down a big bend stern first.
First I didn't know where I was; I thought I was
dreaming; and when things began to come back to me
they seemed to come up dim out of last week.
It was a monstrous big river here, with the tallest
and the thickest kind of timber on both banks; just a
solid wall, as well as I could see by the stars. I looked
away down-stream, and seen a black speck on the
water. I took after it; but when I got to it it warn't
nothing but a couple of sawlogs made fast together.
Then I see another speck, and chased that; then
another, and this time I was right. It was the raft.
When I got to it Jim was setting there with his head
down between his knees, asleep, with his right arm
hanging over the steering-oar. The other oar was
smashed off, and the raft was littered up with leaves
and branches and dirt. So she'd had a rough time.
I made fast and laid down under Jim's nose on the
raft, and began to gap, and stretch my fists out against
Jim, and says:
"Hello, Jim, have I been asleep? Why didn't you
stir me up?"
"Goodness gracious, is dat you, Huck? En you
ain' dead -- you ain' drownded -- you's back agin?
It's too good for true, honey, it's too good for true.
Lemme look at you chile, lemme feel o' you. No,
you ain' dead! you's back agin, 'live en soun', jis de
same ole Huck -- de same ole Huck, thanks to goodness!"
"What's the matter with you, Jim? You been adrinking?"
"Drinkin'? Has I ben a-drinkin'? Has I had a
chance to be a-drinkin'?"
"Well, then, what makes you talk so wild?"
"How does I talk wild?"
"HOW? Why, hain't you been talking about my
coming back, and all that stuff, as if I'd been gone
"Huck -- Huck Finn, you look me in de eye; look
me in de eye. HAIN'T you ben gone away?"
"Gone away? Why, what in the nation do you
mean? I hain't been gone anywheres. Where would
I go to?"
"Well, looky here, boss, dey's sumf'n wrong, dey
is. Is I ME, or who IS I? Is I heah, or whah IS I?
Now dat's what I wants to know."
"Well, I think you're here, plain enough, but I
think you're a tangle-headed old fool, Jim."
"I is, is I? Well, you answer me dis: Didn't you
tote out de line in de canoe fer to make fas' to de towhead?"
"No, I didn't. What tow-head? I hain't see no
"You hain't seen no towhead? Looky here, didn't
de line pull loose en de raf' go a-hummin' down de
river, en leave you en de canoe behine in de fog?"
"What fog?"
"Why, de fog! -- de fog dat's been aroun' all night.
En didn't you whoop, en didn't I whoop, tell we got
mix' up in de islands en one un us got los' en t'other
one was jis' as good as los', 'kase he didn' know whah
he wuz? En didn't I bust up agin a lot er dem islands
en have a turrible time en mos' git drownded? Now
ain' dat so, boss -- ain't it so? You answer me dat."
"Well, this is too many for me, Jim. I hain't seen
no fog, nor no islands, nor no troubles, nor nothing.
I been setting here talking with you all night till you
went to sleep about ten minutes ago, and I reckon I
done the same. You couldn't a got drunk in that
time, so of course you've been dreaming."
"Dad fetch it, how is I gwyne to dream all dat in
ten minutes?"
"Well, hang it all, you did dream it, because there
didn't any of it happen."
"But, Huck, it's all jis' as plain to me as --"
"It don't make no difference how plain it is; there
ain't nothing in it. I know, because I've been here
all the time."
Jim didn't say nothing for about five minutes, but
set there studying over it. Then he says:
"Well, den, I reck'n I did dream it, Huck; but
dog my cats ef it ain't de powerfullest dream I ever
see. En I hain't ever had no dream b'fo' dat's tired
me like dis one."
"Oh, well, that's all right, because a dream does
tire a body like everything sometimes. But this one
was a staving dream; tell me all about it, Jim."
So Jim went to work and told me the whole thing
right through, just as it happened, only he painted it
up considerable. Then he said he must start in and
"'terpret" it, because it was sent for a warning. He
said the first towhead stood for a man that would try
to do us some good, but the current was another man
that would get us away from him. The whoops was
warnings that would come to us every now and then,
and if we didn't try hard to make out to understand
them they'd just take us into bad luck, 'stead of keeping
us out of it. The lot of towheads was troubles
we was going to get into with quarrelsome people and
all kinds of mean folks, but if we minded our business
and didn't talk back and aggravate them, we would
pull through and get out of the fog and into the big
clear river, which was the free States, and wouldn't
have no more trouble.
It had clouded up pretty dark just after I got on to
the raft, but it was clearing up again now.
"Oh, well, that's all interpreted well enough as far
as it goes, Jim," I says; "but what does THESE things
stand for?"
It was the leaves and rubbish on the raft and the
smashed oar. You could see them first-rate now.
Jim looked at the trash, and then looked at me, and
back at the trash again. He had got the dream fixed
so strong in his head that he couldn't seem to shake it
loose and get the facts back into its place again right
away. But when he did get the thing straightened
around he looked at me steady without ever smiling,
and says:
"What do dey stan' for? I'se gwyne to tell you.
When I got all wore out wid work, en wid de callin'
for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos' broke
bekase you wuz los', en I didn' k'yer no' mo' what
become er me en de raf'. En when I wake up en fine
you back agin, all safe en soun', de tears come, en I
could a got down on my knees en kiss yo' foot, I's so
thankful. En all you wuz thinkin' 'bout wuz how you
could make a fool uv ole Jim wid a lie. Dat truck dah
is TRASH; en trash is what people is dat puts dirt on de
head er dey fren's en makes 'em ashamed."
Then he got up slow and walked to the wigwam,
and went in there without saying anything but that.
But that was enough. It made me feel so mean I
could almost kissed HIS foot to get him to take it back.
It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up
to go and humble myself to a nigger; but I done it,
and I warn't ever sorry for it afterwards, neither. I
didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't
done that one if I'd a knowed it would make him feel
that way.
WE slept most all day, and started out at night, a
little ways behind a monstrous long raft that
was as long going by as a procession. She had four
long sweeps at each end, so we judged she carried as
many as thirty men, likely. She had five big wigwams
aboard, wide apart, and an open camp fire in the middle,
and a tall flag-pole at each end. There was a
power of style about her. It AMOUNTED to something
being a raftsman on such a craft as that.
We went drifting down into a big bend, and the
night clouded up and got hot. The river was very
wide, and was walled with solid timber on both sides;
you couldn't see a break in it hardly ever, or a light.
We talked about Cairo, and wondered whether we
would know it when we got to it. I said likely we
wouldn't, because I had heard say there warn't but
about a dozen houses there, and if they didn't happen
to have them lit up, how was we going to know we
was passing a town? Jim said if the two big rivers
joined together there, that would show. But I said
maybe we might think we was passing the foot of an
island and coming into the same old river again. That
disturbed Jim -- and me too. So the question was,
what to do? I said, paddle ashore the first time a
light showed, and tell them pap was behind, coming
along with a trading-scow, and was a green hand at
the business, and wanted to know how far it was to
Cairo. Jim thought it was a good idea, so we took a
smoke on it and waited.
There warn't nothing to do now but to look out
sharp for the town, and not pass it without seeing it.
He said he'd be mighty sure to see it, because he'd be
a free man the minute he seen it, but if he missed it
he'd be in a slave country again and no more show for
freedom. Every little while he jumps up and says:
"Dah she is?"
But it warn't. It was Jack-o'-lanterns, or lightning
bugs; so he set down again, and went to watching,
same as before. Jim said it made him all over trembly
and feverish to be so close to freedom. Well, I can
tell you it made me all over trembly and feverish, too,
to hear him, because I begun to get it through my
head that he WAS most free -- and who was to blame
for it? Why, ME. I couldn't get that out of my conscience,
no how nor no way. It got to troubling me
so I couldn't rest; I couldn't stay still in one place.
It hadn't ever come home to me before, what this
thing was that I was doing. But now it did; and it
stayed with me, and scorched me more and more. I
tried to make out to myself that I warn't to blame,
because I didn't run Jim off from his rightful owner;
but it warn't no use, conscience up and says, every
time, "But you knowed he was running for his freedom,
and you could a paddled ashore and told somebody."
That was so -- I couldn't get around that
noway. That was where it pinched. Conscience says
to me, "What had poor Miss Watson done to you
that you could see her nigger go off right under your
eyes and never say one single word? What did that
poor old woman do to you that you could treat her so
mean? Why, she tried to learn you your book, she tried
to learn you your manners, she tried to be good to you
every way she knowed how. THAT'S what she done."
I got to feeling so mean and so miserable I most wished
I was dead. I fidgeted up and down the raft, abusing
myself to myself, and Jim was fidgeting up and down
past me. We neither of us could keep still. Every
time he danced around and says, "Dah's Cairo!" it
went through me like a shot, and I thought if it WAS
Cairo I reckoned I would die of miserableness.
Jim talked out loud all the time while I was talking
to myself. He was saying how the first thing he
would do when he got to a free State he would go to
saving up money and never spend a single cent, and
when he got enough he would buy his wife, which was
owned on a farm close to where Miss Watson lived;
and then they would both work to buy the two children,
and if their master wouldn't sell them, they'd
get an Ab'litionist to go and steal them.
It most froze me to hear such talk. He wouldn't
ever dared to talk such talk in his life before. Just
see what a difference it made in him the minute he
judged he was about free. It was according to the old
saying, "Give a nigger an inch and he'll take an ell."
Thinks I, this is what comes of my not thinking.
Here was this nigger, which I had as good as helped
to run away, coming right out flat-footed and saying
he would steal his children -- children that belonged to
a man I didn't even know; a man that hadn't ever
done me no harm.
I was sorry to hear Jim say that, it was such a
lowering of him. My conscience got to stirring me up
hotter than ever, until at last I says to it, "Let up on
me -- it ain't too late yet -- I'll paddle ashore at the
first light and tell." I felt easy and happy and light
as a feather right off. All my troubles was gone. I
went to looking out sharp for a light, and sort of singing
to myself. By and by one showed. Jim sings
"We's safe, Huck, we's safe! Jump up and crack
yo' heels! Dat's de good ole Cairo at las', I jis knows
I says:
"I'll take the canoe and go and see, Jim. It
mightn't be, you know."
He jumped and got the canoe ready, and put his old
coat in the bottom for me to set on, and give me the
paddle; and as I shoved off, he says:
"Pooty soon I'll be a-shout'n' for joy, en I'll say,
it's all on accounts o' Huck; I's a free man, en I
couldn't ever ben free ef it hadn' ben for Huck; Huck
done it. Jim won't ever forgit you, Huck; you's de
bes' fren' Jim's ever had; en you's de ONLY fren' ole
Jim's got now."
I was paddling off, all in a sweat to tell on him; but
when he says this, it seemed to kind of take the tuck
all out of me. I went along slow then, and I warn't
right down certain whether I was glad I started or
whether I warn't. When I was fifty yards off, Jim
"Dah you goes, de ole true Huck; de on'y white
genlman dat ever kep' his promise to ole Jim."
Well, I just felt sick. But I says, I GOT to do it -- I
can't get OUT of it. Right then along comes a skiff
with two men in it with guns, and they stopped and I
stopped. One of them says:
"What's that yonder?"
"A piece of a raft," I says.
"Do you belong on it?"
"Yes, sir."
"Any men on it?"
"Only one, sir."
"Well, there's five niggers run off to-night up yonder,
above the head of the bend. Is your man white
or black?"
I didn't answer up prompt. I tried to, but the
words wouldn't come. I tried for a second or two to
brace up and out with it, but I warn't man enough --
hadn't the spunk of a rabbit. I see I was weakening;
so I just give up trying, and up and says:
"He's white."
"I reckon we'll go and see for ourselves."
"I wish you would," says I, "because it's pap
that's there, and maybe you'd help me tow the raft
ashore where the light is. He's sick -- and so is mam
and Mary Ann."
"Oh, the devil! we're in a hurry, boy. But I
s'pose we've got to. Come, buckle to your paddle,
and let's get along."
I buckled to my paddle and they laid to their oars.
When we had made a stroke or two, I says:
"Pap'll be mighty much obleeged to you, I can
tell you. Everybody goes away when I want them to
help me tow the raft ashore, and I can't do it by
"Well, that's infernal mean. Odd, too. Say, boy,
what's the matter with your father?"
"It's the -- a -- the -- well, it ain't anything much."
They stopped pulling. It warn't but a mighty little
ways to the raft now. One says:
"Boy, that's a lie. What IS the matter with your
pap? Answer up square now, and it'll be the better
for you."
"I will, sir, I will, honest -- but don't leave us,
please. It's the -- the -- Gentlemen, if you'll only
pull ahead, and let me heave you the headline, you
won't have to come a-near the raft -- please do."
"Set her back, John, set her back!" says one.
They backed water. "Keep away, boy -- keep to
looard. Confound it, I just expect the wind has
blowed it to us. Your pap's got the small-pox, and
you know it precious well. Why didn't you come out
and say so? Do you want to spread it all over?"
"Well," says I, a-blubbering, "I've told everybody
before, and they just went away and left us."
"Poor devil, there's something in that. We are
right down sorry for you, but we -- well, hang it, we
don't want the small-pox, you see. Look here, I'll
tell you what to do. Don't you try to land by yourself,
or you'll smash everything to pieces. You float
along down about twenty miles, and you'll come to a
town on the left-hand side of the river. It will be
long after sun-up then, and when you ask for help
you tell them your folks are all down with chills and
fever. Don't be a fool again, and let people guess
what is the matter. Now we're trying to do you a
kindness; so you just put twenty miles between us,
that's a good boy. It wouldn't do any good to land
yonder where the light is -- it's only a wood-yard.
Say, I reckon your father's poor, and I'm bound to
say he's in pretty hard luck. Here, I'll put a twentydollar
gold piece on this board, and you get it when it
floats by. I feel mighty mean to leave you; but my
kingdom! it won't do to fool with small-pox, don't
you see?"
"Hold on, Parker," says the other man, "here's a
twenty to put on the board for me. Good-bye, boy;
you do as Mr. Parker told you, and you'll be all
"That's so, my boy -- good-bye, good-bye. If you
see any runaway niggers you get help and nab them,
and you can make some money by it."
"Good-bye, sir," says I; "I won't let no runaway
niggers get by me if I can help it."
They went off and I got aboard the raft, feeling bad
and low, because I knowed very well I had done
wrong, and I see it warn't no use for me to try to
learn to do right; a body that don't get STARTED right
when he's little ain't got no show -- when the pinch
comes there ain't nothing to back him up and keep
him to his work, and so he gets beat. Then I thought
a minute, and says to myself, hold on; s'pose you'd a
done right and give Jim up, would you felt better than
what you do now? No, says I, I'd feel bad -- I'd feel
just the same way I do now. Well, then, says I,
what's the use you learning to do right when it's
troublesome to do right and ain't no trouble to do
wrong, and the wages is just the same? I was stuck.
I couldn't answer that. So I reckoned I wouldn't
bother no more about it, but after this always do
whichever come handiest at the time.
I went into the wigwam; Jim warn't there. I looked
all around; he warn't anywhere. I says:
"Here I is, Huck. Is dey out o' sight yit? Don't
talk loud."
He was in the river under the stern oar, with just
his nose out. I told him they were out of sight, so he
come aboard. He says:
"I was a-listenin' to all de talk, en I slips into de
river en was gwyne to shove for sho' if dey come
aboard. Den I was gwyne to swim to de raf' agin
when dey was gone. But lawsy, how you did fool
'em, Huck! Dat WUZ de smartes' dodge! I tell you,
chile, I'spec it save' ole Jim -- ole Jim ain't going to
forgit you for dat, honey."
Then we talked about the money. It was a pretty
good raise -- twenty dollars apiece. Jim said we could
take deck passage on a steamboat now, and the money
would last us as far as we wanted to go in the free
States. He said twenty mile more warn't far for the
raft to go, but he wished we was already there.
Towards daybreak we tied up, and Jim was mighty
particular about hiding the raft good. Then he worked
all day fixing things in bundles, and getting all ready
to quit rafting.
That night about ten we hove in sight of the lights
of a town away down in a left-hand bend.
I went off in the canoe to ask about it. Pretty soon I
found a man out in the river with a skiff, setting a trotline.
I ranged up and says:
"Mister, is that town Cairo?"
"Cairo? no. You must be a blame' fool."
"What town is it, mister?"
"If you want to know, go and find out. If you
stay here botherin' around me for about a half a minute
longer you'll get something you won't want."
I paddled to the raft. Jim was awful disappointed,
but I said never mind, Cairo would be the next place,
I reckoned.
We passed another town before daylight, and I was
going out again; but it was high ground, so I didn't
go. No high ground about Cairo, Jim said. I had
forgot it. We laid up for the day on a towhead
tolerable close to the left-hand bank. I begun to
suspicion something. So did Jim. I says:
"Maybe we went by Cairo in the fog that night."
He says:
"Doan' le's talk about it, Huck. Po' niggers can't
have no luck. I awluz 'spected dat rattlesnake-skin
warn't done wid its work."
"I wish I'd never seen that snake-skin, Jim -- I do
wish I'd never laid eyes on it."
"It ain't yo' fault, Huck; you didn' know. Don't
you blame yo'self 'bout it."
When it was daylight, here was the clear Ohio water
inshore, sure enough, and outside was the old regular
Muddy! So it was all up with Cairo.
We talked it all over. It wouldn't do to take to the
shore; we couldn't take the raft up the stream, of
course. There warn't no way but to wait for dark,
and start back in the canoe and take the chances. So
we slept all day amongst the cottonwood thicket, so
as to be fresh for the work, and when we went back to
the raft about dark the canoe was gone!
We didn't say a word for a good while. There
warn't anything to say. We both knowed well enough
it was some more work of the rattlesnake-skin; so
what was the use to talk about it? It would only look
like we was finding fault, and that would be bound to
fetch more bad luck -- and keep on fetching it, too, till
we knowed enough to keep still.
By and by we talked about what we better do, and
found there warn't no way but just to go along down
with the raft till we got a chance to buy a canoe to go
back in. We warn't going to borrow it when there
warn't anybody around, the way pap would do, for
that might set people after us.
So we shoved out after dark on the raft.
Anybody that don't believe yet that it's foolishness to
handle a snake-skin, after all that that snake-skin done
for us, will believe it now if they read on and see what
more it done for us.
The place to buy canoes is off of rafts laying up at
shore. But we didn't see no rafts laying up; so we
went along during three hours and more. Well, the
night got gray and ruther thick, which is the next
meanest thing to fog. You can't tell the shape of the
river, and you can't see no distance. It got to be
very late and still, and then along comes a steamboat
up the river. We lit the lantern, and judged she would
see it. Up-stream boats didn't generly come close to
us; they go out and follow the bars and hunt for easy
water under the reefs; but nights like this they bull
right up the channel against the whole river.
We could hear her pounding along, but we didn't
see her good till she was close. She aimed right for
us. Often they do that and try to see how close they
can come without touching; sometimes the wheel bites
off a sweep, and then the pilot sticks his head out and
laughs, and thinks he's mighty smart. Well, here she
comes, and we said she was going to try and shave us;
but she didn't seem to be sheering off a bit. She was
a big one, and she was coming in a hurry, too, looking
like a black cloud with rows of glow-worms around it;
but all of a sudden she bulged out, big and scary, with
a long row of wide-open furnace doors shining like
red-hot teeth, and her monstrous bows and guards
hanging right over us. There was a yell at us, and a
jingling of bells to stop the engines, a powwow of
cussing, and whistling of steam -- and as Jim went
overboard on one side and I on the other, she come
smashing straight through the raft.
I dived -- and I aimed to find the bottom, too, for a
thirty-foot wheel had got to go over me, and I wanted
it to have plenty of room. I could always stay under
water a minute; this time I reckon I stayed under a
minute and a half. Then I bounced for the top in a
hurry, for I was nearly busting. I popped out to my
armpits and blowed the water out of my nose, and
puffed a bit. Of course there was a booming current;
and of course that boat started her engines again ten
seconds after she stopped them, for they never cared
much for raftsmen; so now she was churning along up
the river, out of sight in the thick weather, though I
could hear her.
I sung out for Jim about a dozen times, but I didn't
get any answer; so I grabbed a plank that touched me
while I was "treading water," and struck out for
shore, shoving it ahead of me. But I made out to
see that the drift of the current was towards the lefthand
shore, which meant that I was in a crossing; so
I changed off and went that way.
It was one of these long, slanting, two-mile crossings;
so I was a good long time in getting over. I
made a safe landing, and clumb up the bank. I couldn't
see but a little ways, but I went poking along over
rough ground for a quarter of a mile or more, and
then I run across a big old-fashioned double log-house
before I noticed it. I was going to rush by and get
away, but a lot of dogs jumped out and went to howling
and barking at me, and I knowed better than to
move another peg.
IN about a minute somebody spoke out of a window
without putting his head out, and says:
"Be done, boys! Who's there?"
I says:
"It's me."
"Who's me?"
"George Jackson, sir."
"What do you want?"
"I don't want nothing, sir. I only want to go
along by, but the dogs won't let me."
"What are you prowling around here this time of
night for -- hey?"
"I warn't prowling around, sir, I fell overboard off
of the steamboat."
"Oh, you did, did you? Strike a light there, somebody.
What did you say your name was?"
"George Jackson, sir. I'm only a boy."
"Look here, if you're telling the truth you needn't
be afraid -- nobody'll hurt you. But don't try to
budge; stand right where you are. Rouse out Bob
and Tom, some of you, and fetch the guns. George
Jackson, is there anybody with you?"
"No, sir, nobody."
I heard the people stirring around in the house now,
and see a light. The man sung out:
"Snatch that light away, Betsy, you old fool -- ain't
you got any sense? Put it on the floor behind the
front door. Bob, if you and Tom are ready, take
your places."
"All ready."
"Now, George Jackson, do you know the Shepherdsons?"
"No, sir; I never heard of them."
"Well, that may be so, and it mayn't. Now, all
ready. Step forward, George Jackson. And mind,
don't you hurry -- come mighty slow. If there's anybody
with you, let him keep back -- if he shows himself
he'll be shot. Come along now. Come slow;
push the door open yourself -- just enough to squeeze
in, d' you hear?"
I didn't hurry; I couldn't if I'd a wanted to. I
took one slow step at a time and there warn't a sound,
only I thought I could hear my heart. The dogs were
as still as the humans, but they followed a little behind
me. When I got to the three log doorsteps I heard
them unlocking and unbarring and unbolting. I put
my hand on the door and pushed it a little and a little
more till somebody said, "There, that's enough -- put
your head in." I done it, but I judged they would
take it off.
The candle was on the floor, and there they all was,
looking at me, and me at them, for about a quarter of
a minute: Three big men with guns pointed at me,
which made me wince, I tell you; the oldest, gray and
about sixty, the other two thirty or more -- all of them
fine and handsome -- and the sweetest old gray-headed
lady, and back of her two young women which I
couldn't see right well. The old gentleman says:
"There; I reckon it's all right. Come in."
As soon as I was in the old gentleman he locked the
door and barred it and bolted it, and told the young
men to come in with their guns, and they all went in a
big parlor that had a new rag carpet on the floor, and
got together in a corner that was out of the range of
the front windows -- there warn't none on the side.
They held the candle, and took a good look at me,
and all said, "Why, HE ain't a Shepherdson -- no,
there ain't any Shepherdson about him." Then the
old man said he hoped I wouldn't mind being searched
for arms, because he didn't mean no harm by it -- it
was only to make sure. So he didn't pry into my
pockets, but only felt outside with his hands, and said
it was all right. He told me to make myself easy and
at home, and tell all about myself; but the old lady
"Why, bless you, Saul, the poor thing's as wet as
he can be; and don't you reckon it may be he's
"True for you, Rachel -- I forgot."
So the old lady says:
"Betsy" (this was a nigger woman), you fly around
and get him something to eat as quick as you can, poor
thing; and one of you girls go and wake up Buck and
tell him -- oh, here he is himself. Buck, take this
little stranger and get the wet clothes off from him and
dress him up in some of yours that's dry."
Buck looked about as old as me -- thirteen or fourteen
or along there, though he was a little bigger than
me. He hadn't on anything but a shirt, and he was
very frowzy-headed. He came in gaping and digging
one fist into his eyes, and he was dragging a gun along
with the other one. He says:
"Ain't they no Shepherdsons around?"
They said, no, 'twas a false alarm.
"Well," he says, "if they'd a ben some, I reckon
I'd a got one."
They all laughed, and Bob says:
"Why, Buck, they might have scalped us all, you've
been so slow in coming."
"Well, nobody come after me, and it ain't right
I'm always kept down; I don't get no show."
"Never mind, Buck, my boy," says the old man,
"you'll have show enough, all in good time, don't
you fret about that. Go 'long with you now, and do
as your mother told you."
When we got up-stairs to his room he got me a
coarse shirt and a roundabout and pants of his, and I
put them on. While I was at it he asked me what my
name was, but before I could tell him he started to tell
me about a bluejay and a young rabbit he had catched
in the woods day before yesterday, and he asked me
where Moses was when the candle went out. I said I
didn't know; I hadn't heard about it before, no way.
"Well, guess," he says.
"How'm I going to guess," says I, "when I never
heard tell of it before?"
"But you can guess, can't you? It's just as easy."
"WHICH candle?" I says.
"Why, any candle," he says.
"I don't know where he was," says I; "where
was he?"
"Why, he was in the DARK! That's where he was!"
"Well, if you knowed where he was, what did you
ask me for?"
"Why, blame it, it's a riddle, don't you see? Say,
how long are you going to stay here? You got to
stay always. We can just have booming times -- they
don't have no school now. Do you own a dog?
I've got a dog -- and he'll go in the river and bring
out chips that you throw in. Do you like to comb up
Sundays, and all that kind of foolishness? You bet I
don't, but ma she makes me. Confound these ole
britches! I reckon I'd better put 'em on, but I'd
ruther not, it's so warm. Are you all ready? All
right. Come along, old hoss."
Cold corn-pone, cold corn-beef, butter and buttermilk
-- that is what they had for me down there, and
there ain't nothing better that ever I've come across
yet. Buck and his ma and all of them smoked cob
pipes, except the nigger woman, which was gone, and
the two young women. They all smoked and talked,
and I eat and talked. The young women had quilts
around them, and their hair down their backs. They
all asked me questions, and I told them how pap and
me and all the family was living on a little farm down
at the bottom of Arkansaw, and my sister Mary Ann
run off and got married and never was heard of no
more, and Bill went to hunt them and he warn't heard
of no more, and Tom and Mort died, and then there
warn't nobody but just me and pap left, and he was
just trimmed down to nothing, on account of his
troubles; so when he died I took what there was left,
because the farm didn't belong to us, and started up
the river, deck passage, and fell overboard; and that
was how I come to be here. So they said I could
have a home there as long as I wanted it. Then it
was most daylight and everybody went to bed, and I
went to bed with Buck, and when I waked up in the
morning, drat it all, I had forgot what my name was.
So I laid there about an hour trying to think, and
when Buck waked up I says:
"Can you spell, Buck?"
"Yes," he says.
"I bet you can't spell my name," says I.
"I bet you what you dare I can," says he.
"All right," says I, "go ahead."
"G-e-o-r-g-e J-a-x-o-n -- there now," he says.
"Well," says I, "you done it, but I didn't think
you could. It ain't no slouch of a name to spell --
right off without studying."
I set it down, private, because somebody might want
ME to spell it next, and so I wanted to be handy with
it and rattle it off like I was used to it.
It was a mighty nice family, and a mighty nice
house, too. I hadn't seen no house out in the country
before that was so nice and had so much style. It
didn't have an iron latch on the front door, nor a
wooden one with a buckskin string, but a brass knob
to turn, the same as houses in town. There warn't no
bed in the parlor, nor a sign of a bed; but heaps of
parlors in towns has beds in them. There was a big
fireplace that was bricked on the bottom, and the
bricks was kept clean and red by pouring water on
them and scrubbing them with another brick; sometimes
they wash them over with red water-paint that
they call Spanish-brown, same as they do in town.
They had big brass dog-irons that could hold up a sawlog.
There was a clock on the middle of the mantelpiece,
with a picture of a town painted on the bottom
half of the glass front, and a round place in the middle
of it for the sun, and you could see the pendulum
swinging behind it. It was beautiful to hear that clock
tick; and sometimes when one of these peddlers had
been along and scoured her up and got her in good
shape, she would start in and strike a hundred and
fifty before she got tuckered out. They wouldn't took
any money for her.
Well, there was a big outlandish parrot on each side
of the clock, made out of something like chalk, and
painted up gaudy. By one of the parrots was a cat
made of crockery, and a crockery dog by the other;
and when you pressed down on them they squeaked,
but didn't open their mouths nor look different nor
interested. They squeaked through underneath. There
was a couple of big wild-turkey-wing fans spread out
behind those things. On the table in the middle of
the room was a kind of a lovely crockery basket that
had apples and oranges and peaches and grapes piled
up in it, which was much redder and yellower and
prettier than real ones is, but they warn't real because
you could see where pieces had got chipped off and
showed the white chalk, or whatever it was, underneath.
This table had a cover made out of beautiful oilcloth,
with a red and blue spread-eagle painted on it, and a
painted border all around. It come all the way from
Philadelphia, they said. There was some books, too,
piled up perfectly exact, on each corner of the table.
One was a big family Bible full of pictures. One was
Pilgrim's Progress, about a man that left his family, it
didn't say why. I read considerable in it now and
then. The statements was interesting, but tough.
Another was Friendship's Offering, full of beautiful
stuff and poetry; but I didn't read the poetry. Another
was Henry Clay's Speeches, and another was
Dr. Gunn's Family Medicine, which told you all about
what to do if a body was sick or dead. There was a
hymn book, and a lot of other books. And there was
nice split-bottom chairs, and perfectly sound, too --
not bagged down in the middle and busted, like an
old basket.
They had pictures hung on the walls -- mainly
Washingtons and Lafayettes, and battles, and Highland
Marys, and one called "Signing the Declaration."
There was some that they called crayons, which one of
the daughters which was dead made her own self when
she was only fifteen years old. They was different
from any pictures I ever see before -- blacker, mostly,
than is common. One was a woman in a slim black
dress, belted small under the armpits, with bulges like
a cabbage in the middle of the sleeves, and a large
black scoop-shovel bonnet with a black veil, and white
slim ankles crossed about with black tape, and very
wee black slippers, like a chisel, and she was leaning
pensive on a tombstone on her right elbow, under a
weeping willow, and her other hand hanging down her
side holding a white handkerchief and a reticule, and
underneath the picture it said "Shall I Never See Thee
More Alas." Another one was a young lady with her
hair all combed up straight to the top of her head, and
knotted there in front of a comb like a chair-back, and
she was crying into a handkerchief and had a dead
bird laying on its back in her other hand with its heels
up, and underneath the picture it said "I Shall Never
Hear Thy Sweet Chirrup More Alas." There was one
where a young lady was at a window looking up at the
moon, and tears running down her cheeks; and she
had an open letter in one hand with black sealing wax
showing on one edge of it, and she was mashing a
locket with a chain to it against her mouth, and underneath
the picture it said "And Art Thou Gone Yes
Thou Art Gone Alas." These was all nice pictures, I
reckon, but I didn't somehow seem to take to them,
because if ever I was down a little they always give me
the fan-tods. Everybody was sorry she died, because
she had laid out a lot more of these pictures to do,
and a body could see by what she had done what they
had lost. But I reckoned that with her disposition she
was having a better time in the graveyard. She was
at work on what they said was her greatest picture
when she took sick, and every day and every night it
was her prayer to be allowed to live till she got it
done, but she never got the chance. It was a picture
of a young woman in a long white gown, standing on
the rail of a bridge all ready to jump off, with her hair
all down her back, and looking up to the moon, with
the tears running down her face, and she had two arms
folded across her breast, and two arms stretched out in
front, and two more reaching up towards the moon --
and the idea was to see which pair would look best,
and then scratch out all the other arms; but, as I was
saying, she died before she got her mind made up,
and now they kept this picture over the head of the
bed in her room, and every time her birthday come
they hung flowers on it. Other times it was hid with
a little curtain. The young woman in the picture had a
kind of a nice sweet face, but there was so many arms
it made her look too spidery, seemed to me.
This young girl kept a scrap-book when she was
alive, and used to paste obituaries and accidents and
cases of patient suffering in it out of the Presbyterian
Observer, and write poetry after them out of her own
head. It was very good poetry. This is what she
wrote about a boy by the name of Stephen Dowling
Bots that fell down a well and was drownded:
And did young Stephen sicken,
And did young Stephen die?
And did the sad hearts thicken,
And did the mourners cry?
No; such was not the fate of
Young Stephen Dowling Bots;
Though sad hearts round him thickened,
'Twas not from sickness' shots.
No whooping-cough did rack his frame,
Nor measles drear with spots;
Not these impaired the sacred name
Of Stephen Dowling Bots.
Despised love struck not with woe
That head of curly knots,
Nor stomach troubles laid him low,
Young Stephen Dowling Bots.
O no. Then list with tearful eye,
Whilst I his fate do tell.
His soul did from this cold world fly
By falling down a well.
They got him out and emptied him;
Alas it was too late;
His spirit was gone for to sport aloft
In the realms of the good and great.
If Emmeline Grangerford could make poetry like
that before she was fourteen, there ain't no telling
what she could a done by and by. Buck said she
could rattle off poetry like nothing. She didn't ever
have to stop to think. He said she would slap down a
line, and if she couldn't find anything to rhyme with it
would just scratch it out and slap down another one,
and go ahead. She warn't particular; she could write
about anything you choose to give her to write about
just so it was sadful. Every time a man died, or a
woman died, or a child died, she would be on hand
with her "tribute" before he was cold. She called
them tributes. The neighbors said it was the doctor
first, then Emmeline, then the undertaker -- the undertaker
never got in ahead of Emmeline but once, and
then she hung fire on a rhyme for the dead person's
name, which was Whistler. She warn't ever the same
after that; she never complained, but she kinder pined
away and did not live long. Poor thing, many's the
time I made myself go up to the little room that used
to be hers and get out her poor old scrap-book and
read in it when her pictures had been aggravating me
and I had soured on her a little. I liked all that
family, dead ones and all, and warn't going to let anything
come between us. Poor Emmeline made poetry
about all the dead people when she was alive, and it
didn't seem right that there warn't nobody to make
some about her now she was gone; so I tried to sweat
out a verse or two myself, but I couldn't seem to make
it go somehow. They kept Emmeline's room trim
and nice, and all the things fixed in it just the way
she liked to have them when she was alive, and nobody
ever slept there. The old lady took care of the room
herself, though there was plenty of niggers, and she
sewed there a good deal and read her Bible there
Well, as I was saying about the parlor, there was
beautiful curtains on the windows: white, with pictures
painted on them of castles with vines all down the
walls, and cattle coming down to drink. There was a
little old piano, too, that had tin pans in it, I reckon,
and nothing was ever so lovely as to hear the young
ladies sing "The Last Link is Broken" and play "The
Battle of Prague" on it. The walls of all the rooms
was plastered, and most had carpets on the floors, and
the whole house was whitewashed on the outside.
It was a double house, and the big open place betwixt
them was roofed and floored, and sometimes the
table was set there in the middle of the day, and it was
a cool, comfortable place. Nothing couldn't be better.
And warn't the cooking good, and just bushels of it
COL. GRANGERFORD was a gentleman, you see.
He was a gentleman all over; and so was his
family. He was well born, as the saying is, and that's
worth as much in a man as it is in a horse, so the
Widow Douglas said, and nobody ever denied that she
was of the first aristocracy in our town; and pap he
always said it, too, though he warn't no more quality
than a mudcat himself. Col. Grangerford was very tall
and very slim, and had a darkish-paly complexion, not
a sign of red in it anywheres; he was clean shaved
every morning all over his thin face, and he had the
thinnest kind of lips, and the thinnest kind of nostrils,
and a high nose, and heavy eyebrows, and the blackest
kind of eyes, sunk so deep back that they seemed like
they was looking out of caverns at you, as you may
say. His forehead was high, and his hair was black
and straight and hung to his shoulders. His hands
was long and thin, and every day of his life he put on
a clean shirt and a full suit from head to foot made
out of linen so white it hurt your eyes to look at it;
and on Sundays he wore a blue tail-coat with brass
buttons on it. He carried a mahogany cane with a
silver head to it. There warn't no frivolishness about
him, not a bit, and he warn't ever loud. He was as
kind as he could be -- you could feel that, you know,
and so you had confidence. Sometimes he smiled,
and it was good to see; but when he straightened himself
up like a liberty-pole, and the lightning begun to
flicker out from under his eyebrows, you wanted to
climb a tree first, and find out what the matter was
afterwards. He didn't ever have to tell anybody to
mind their manners -- everybody was always goodmannered
where he was. Everybody loved to have
him around, too; he was sunshine most always -- I
mean he made it seem like good weather. When he
turned into a cloudbank it was awful dark for half a
minute, and that was enough; there wouldn't nothing
go wrong again for a week.
When him and the old lady come down in the morning
all the family got up out of their chairs and give
them good-day, and didn't set down again till they had
set down. Then Tom and Bob went to the sideboard
where the decanter was, and mixed a glass of bitters
and handed it to him, and he held it in his hand and
waited till Tom's and Bob's was mixed, and then they
bowed and said, "Our duty to you, sir, and madam;"
and THEY bowed the least bit in the world and said
thank you, and so they drank, all three, and Bob and
Tom poured a spoonful of water on the sugar and the
mite of whisky or apple brandy in the bottom of their
tumblers, and give it to me and Buck, and we drank to
the old people too.
Bob was the oldest and Tom next -- tall, beautiful
men with very broad shoulders and brown faces, and
long black hair and black eyes. They dressed in white
linen from head to foot, like the old gentleman, and
wore broad Panama hats.
Then there was Miss Charlotte; she was twentyfive,
and tall and proud and grand, but as good as she
could be when she warn't stirred up; but when she
was she had a look that would make you wilt in your
tracks, like her father. She was beautiful.
So was her sister, Miss Sophia, but it was a different
kind. She was gentle and sweet like a dove, and she
was only twenty.
Each person had their own nigger to wait on them --
Buck too. My nigger had a monstrous easy time, because
I warn't used to having anybody do anything
for me, but Buck's was on the jump most of the time.
This was all there was of the family now, but there
used to be more -- three sons; they got killed; and
Emmeline that died.
The old gentleman owned a lot of farms and over a
hundred niggers. Sometimes a stack of people would
come there, horseback, from ten or fifteen mile around,
and stay five or six days, and have such junketings
round about and on the river, and dances and picnics
in the woods daytimes, and balls at the house nights.
These people was mostly kinfolks of the family. The
men brought their guns with them. It was a handsome
lot of quality, I tell you.
There was another clan of aristocracy around there
-- five or six families -- mostly of the name of Shepherdson.
They was as high-toned and well born and
rich and grand as the tribe of Grangerfords. The
Shepherdsons and Grangerfords used the same steamboat
landing, which was about two mile above our
house; so sometimes when I went up there with a lot
of our folks I used to see a lot of the Shepherdsons
there on their fine horses.
One day Buck and me was away out in the woods
hunting, and heard a horse coming. We was crossing
the road. Buck says:
"Quick! Jump for the woods!"
We done it, and then peeped down the woods
through the leaves. Pretty soon a splendid young
man come galloping down the road, setting his horse
easy and looking like a soldier. He had his gun across
his pommel. I had seen him before. It was young
Harney Shepherdson. I heard Buck's gun go off at
my ear, and Harney's hat tumbled off from his head.
He grabbed his gun and rode straight to the place
where we was hid. But we didn't wait. We started
through the woods on a run. The woods warn't thick,
so I looked over my shoulder to dodge the bullet, and
twice I seen Harney cover Buck with his gun; and
then he rode away the way he come -- to get his hat,
I reckon, but I couldn't see. We never stopped running
till we got home. The old gentleman's eyes
blazed a minute -- 'twas pleasure, mainly, I judged --
then his face sort of smoothed down, and he says,
kind of gentle:
"I don't like that shooting from behind a bush.
Why didn't you step into the road, my boy?"
"The Shepherdsons don't, father. They always
take advantage."
Miss Charlotte she held her head up like a queen
while Buck was telling his tale, and her nostrils spread
and her eyes snapped. The two young men looked
dark, but never said nothing. Miss Sophia she turned
pale, but the color come back when she found the
man warn't hurt.
Soon as I could get Buck down by the corn-cribs
under the trees by ourselves, I says:
"Did you want to kill him, Buck?"
"Well, I bet I did."
"What did he do to you?"
"Him? He never done nothing to me."
"Well, then, what did you want to kill him for?"
"Why, nothing -- only it's on account of the feud."
"What's a feud?"
"Why, where was you raised? Don't you know
what a feud is?"
"Never heard of it before -- tell me about it."
"Well," says Buck, "a feud is this way: A man
has a quarrel with another man, and kills him; then
that other man's brother kills HIM; then the other
brothers, on both sides, goes for one another; then
the COUSINS chip in -- and by and by everybody's killed
off, and there ain't no more feud. But it's kind of
slow, and takes a long time."
"Has this one been going on long, Buck?"
"Well, I should RECKON! It started thirty year ago,
or som'ers along there. There was trouble 'bout
something, and then a lawsuit to settle it; and the
suit went agin one of the men, and so he up and shot
the man that won the suit -- which he would naturally
do, of course. Anybody would."
"What was the trouble about, Buck? -- land?"
"I reckon maybe -- I don't know."
"Well, who done the shooting? Was it a Grangerford
or a Shepherdson?"
"Laws, how do I know? It was so long ago."
"Don't anybody know?"
"Oh, yes, pa knows, I reckon, and some of the
other old people; but they don't know now what the
row was about in the first place."
"Has there been many killed, Buck?"
"Yes; right smart chance of funerals. But they
don't always kill. Pa's got a few buckshot in him;
but he don't mind it 'cuz he don't weigh much, anyway.
Bob's been carved up some with a bowie, and
Tom's been hurt once or twice."
"Has anybody been killed this year, Buck?"
"Yes; we got one and they got one. 'Bout three
months ago my cousin Bud, fourteen year old, was
riding through the woods on t'other side of the river,
and didn't have no weapon with him, which was blame'
foolishness, and in a lonesome place he hears a horse
a-coming behind him, and sees old Baldy Shepherdson
a-linkin' after him with his gun in his hand and his
white hair a-flying in the wind; and 'stead of jumping
off and taking to the brush, Bud 'lowed he could outrun
him; so they had it, nip and tuck, for five mile or
more, the old man a-gaining all the time; so at last
Bud seen it warn't any use, so he stopped and faced
around so as to have the bullet holes in front, you
know, and the old man he rode up and shot him
down. But he didn't git much chance to enjoy his
luck, for inside of a week our folks laid HIM out."
"I reckon that old man was a coward, Buck."
"I reckon he WARN'T a coward. Not by a blame'
sight. There ain't a coward amongst them Shepherdsons
-- not a one. And there ain't no cowards amongst
the Grangerfords either. Why, that old man kep' up
his end in a fight one day for half an hour against
three Grangerfords, and come out winner. They was
all a-horseback; he lit off of his horse and got behind
a little woodpile, and kep' his horse before him to stop
the bullets; but the Grangerfords stayed on their
horses and capered around the old man, and peppered
away at him, and he peppered away at them. Him
and his horse both went home pretty leaky and crippled,
but the Grangerfords had to be FETCHED home --
and one of 'em was dead, and another died the next
day. No, sir; if a body's out hunting for cowards he
don't want to fool away any time amongst them Shepherdsons,
becuz they don't breed any of that KIND."
Next Sunday we all went to church, about three
mile, everybody a-horseback. The men took their
guns along, so did Buck, and kept them between their
knees or stood them handy against the wall. The
Shepherdsons done the same. It was pretty ornery
preaching -- all about brotherly love, and such-like
tiresomeness; but everybody said it was a good sermon,
and they all talked it over going home, and had
such a powerful lot to say about faith and good works
and free grace and preforeordestination, and I don't
know what all, that it did seem to me to be one of the
roughest Sundays I had run across yet.
About an hour after dinner everybody was dozing
around, some in their chairs and some in their rooms,
and it got to be pretty dull. Buck and a dog was
stretched out on the grass in the sun sound asleep. I
went up to our room, and judged I would take a nap
myself. I found that sweet Miss Sophia standing in
her door, which was next to ours, and she took me in
her room and shut the door very soft, and asked me if
I liked her, and I said I did; and she asked me if I
would do something for her and not tell anybody,
and I said I would. Then she said she'd forgot her
Testament, and left it in the seat at church between two
other books, and would I slip out quiet and go there
and fetch it to her, and not say nothing to nobody. I
said I would. So I slid out and slipped off up the
road, and there warn't anybody at the church, except
maybe a hog or two, for there warn't any lock on the
door, and hogs likes a puncheon floor in summer-time
because it's cool. If you notice, most folks don't go
to church only when they've got to; but a hog is
Says I to myself, something's up; it ain't natural
for a girl to be in such a sweat about a Testament.
So I give it a shake, and out drops a little piece of
paper with "HALF-PAST TWO" wrote on it with a pencil.
I ransacked it, but couldn't find anything else. I
couldn't make anything out of that, so I put the paper
in the book again, and when I got home and upstairs
there was Miss Sophia in her door waiting for me.
She pulled me in and shut the door; then she looked
in the Testament till she found the paper, and as soon
as she read it she looked glad; and before a body
could think she grabbed me and give me a squeeze,
and said I was the best boy in the world, and not to
tell anybody. She was mighty red in the face for a
minute, and her eyes lighted up, and it made her
powerful pretty. I was a good deal astonished, but
when I got my breath I asked her what the paper was
about, and she asked me if I had read it, and I said
no, and she asked me if I could read writing, and I
told her "no, only coarse-hand," and then she said
the paper warn't anything but a book-mark to keep
her place, and I might go and play now.
I went off down to the river, studying over this
thing, and pretty soon I noticed that my nigger was
following along behind. When we was out of sight of
the house he looked back and around a second, and
then comes a-running, and says:
"Mars Jawge, if you'll come down into de swamp
I'll show you a whole stack o' water-moccasins."
Thinks I, that's mighty curious; he said that yesterday.
He oughter know a body don't love watermoccasins
enough to go around hunting for them.
What is he up to, anyway? So I says:
"All right; trot ahead."
I followed a half a mile; then he struck out over the
swamp, and waded ankle deep as much as another
half-mile. We come to a little flat piece of land which
was dry and very thick with trees and bushes and
vines, and he says:
"You shove right in dah jist a few steps, Mars
Jawge; dah's whah dey is. I's seed 'm befo'; I
don't k'yer to see 'em no mo'."
Then he slopped right along and went away, and
pretty soon the trees hid him. I poked into the place
a-ways and come to a little open patch as big as a
bedroom all hung around with vines, and found a man
laying there asleep -- and, by jings, it was my old Jim!
I waked him up, and I reckoned it was going to be
a grand surprise to him to see me again, but it warn't.
He nearly cried he was so glad, but he warn't surprised.
Said he swum along behind me that night,
and heard me yell every time, but dasn't answer, because
he didn't want nobody to pick HIM up and take
him into slavery again. Says he:
"I got hurt a little, en couldn't swim fas', so I wuz
a considable ways behine you towards de las'; when
you landed I reck'ned I could ketch up wid you on de
lan' 'dout havin' to shout at you, but when I see dat
house I begin to go slow. I 'uz off too fur to hear
what dey say to you -- I wuz 'fraid o' de dogs; but
when it 'uz all quiet agin I knowed you's in de house,
so I struck out for de woods to wait for day. Early
in de mawnin' some er de niggers come along, gwyne
to de fields, en dey tuk me en showed me dis place,
whah de dogs can't track me on accounts o' de water,
en dey brings me truck to eat every night, en tells me
how you's a-gitt'n along."
"Why didn't you tell my Jack to fetch me here
sooner, Jim?"
"Well, 'twarn't no use to 'sturb you, Huck, tell we
could do sumfn -- but we's all right now. I ben abuyin'
pots en pans en vittles, as I got a chanst, en apatchin'
up de raf' nights when --"
"WHAT raft, Jim?"
"Our ole raf'."
"You mean to say our old raft warn't smashed all
to flinders?"
"No, she warn't. She was tore up a good deal --
one en' of her was; but dey warn't no great harm
done, on'y our traps was mos' all los'. Ef we hadn'
dive' so deep en swum so fur under water, en de night
hadn' ben so dark, en we warn't so sk'yerd, en ben
sich punkin-heads, as de sayin' is, we'd a seed de raf'.
But it's jis' as well we didn't, 'kase now she's all fixed
up agin mos' as good as new, en we's got a new lot o'
stuff, in de place o' what 'uz los'."
"Why, how did you get hold of the raft again, Jim
-- did you catch her?"
"How I gwyne to ketch her en I out in de woods?
No; some er de niggers foun' her ketched on a snag
along heah in de ben', en dey hid her in a crick
'mongst de willows, en dey wuz so much jawin' 'bout
which un 'um she b'long to de mos' dat I come to
heah 'bout it pooty soon, so I ups en settles de trouble
by tellin' 'um she don't b'long to none uv um, but to
you en me; en I ast 'm if dey gwyne to grab a young
white genlman's propaty, en git a hid'n for it? Den I
gin 'm ten cents apiece, en dey 'uz mighty well satisfied,
en wisht some mo' raf's 'ud come along en make
'm rich agin. Dey's mighty good to me, dese niggers
is, en whatever I wants 'm to do fur me I doan' have
to ast 'm twice, honey. Dat Jack's a good nigger, en
pooty smart."
"Yes, he is. He ain't ever told me you was here;
told me to come, and he'd show me a lot of watermoccasins.
If anything happens HE ain't mixed up in
it. He can say he never seen us together, and it 'll
be the truth."
I don't want to talk much about the next day. I
reckon I'll cut it pretty short. I waked up about
dawn, and was a-going to turn over and go to sleep
again when I noticed how still it was -- didn't seem
to be anybody stirring. That warn't usual. Next I
noticed that Buck was up and gone. Well, I gets up,
a-wondering, and goes down stairs -- nobody around;
everything as still as a mouse. Just the same outside.
Thinks I, what does it mean? Down by the woodpile
I comes across my Jack, and says:
"What's it all about?"
Says he:
"Don't you know, Mars Jawge?"
"No," says I, "I don't."
"Well, den, Miss Sophia's run off! 'deed she has.
She run off in de night some time -- nobody don't
know jis' when; run off to get married to dat young
Harney Shepherdson, you know -- leastways, so dey
'spec. De fambly foun' it out 'bout half an hour
ago -- maybe a little mo' -- en' I TELL you dey warn't
no time los'. Sich another hurryin' up guns en hosses
YOU never see! De women folks has gone for to stir
up de relations, en ole Mars Saul en de boys tuck dey
guns en rode up de river road for to try to ketch dat
young man en kill him 'fo' he kin git acrost de river
wid Miss Sophia. I reck'n dey's gwyne to be mighty
rough times."
"Buck went off 'thout waking me up."
"Well, I reck'n he DID! Dey warn't gwyne to mix
you up in it. Mars Buck he loaded up his gun en
'lowed he's gwyne to fetch home a Shepherdson or
bust. Well, dey'll be plenty un 'm dah, I reck'n, en
you bet you he'll fetch one ef he gits a chanst."
I took up the river road as hard as I could put. By
and by I begin to hear guns a good ways off. When
I came in sight of the log store and the woodpile
where the steamboats lands I worked along under the
trees and brush till I got to a good place, and then I
clumb up into the forks of a cottonwood that was out
of reach, and watched. There was a wood-rank four
foot high a little ways in front of the tree, and first I
was going to hide behind that; but maybe it was
luckier I didn't.
There was four or five men cavorting around on their
horses in the open place before the log store, cussing
and yelling, and trying to get at a couple of young
chaps that was behind the wood-rank alongside of
the steamboat landing; but they couldn't come it.
Every time one of them showed himself on the river
side of the woodpile he got shot at. The two boys
was squatting back to back behind the pile, so they
could watch both ways.
By and by the men stopped cavorting around and
yelling. They started riding towards the store; then
up gets one of the boys, draws a steady bead over the
wood-rank, and drops one of them out of his saddle.
All the men jumped off of their horses and grabbed the
hurt one and started to carry him to the store; and
that minute the two boys started on the run. They
got half way to the tree I was in before the men
noticed. Then the men see them, and jumped on
their horses and took out after them. They gained on
the boys, but it didn't do no good, the boys had too
good a start; they got to the woodpile that was in
front of my tree, and slipped in behind it, and so they
had the bulge on the men again. One of the boys
was Buck, and the other was a slim young chap about
nineteen years old.
The men ripped around awhile, and then rode away.
As soon as they was out of sight I sung out to Buck
and told him. He didn't know what to make of my
voice coming out of the tree at first. He was awful
surprised. He told me to watch out sharp and let him
know when the men come in sight again; said they
was up to some devilment or other -- wouldn't be gone
long. I wished I was out of that tree, but I dasn't
come down. Buck begun to cry and rip, and 'lowed
that him and his cousin Joe (that was the other young
chap) would make up for this day yet. He said his
father and his two brothers was killed, and two or
three of the enemy. Said the Shepherdsons laid for
them in ambush. Buck said his father and brothers
ought to waited for their relations -- the Shepherdsons
was too strong for them. I asked him what was become
of young Harney and Miss Sophia. He said
they'd got across the river and was safe. I was glad
of that; but the way Buck did take on because he
didn't manage to kill Harney that day he shot at him
-- I hain't ever heard anything like it.
All of a sudden, bang! bang! bang! goes three or
four guns -- the men had slipped around through the
woods and come in from behind without their horses!
The boys jumped for the river -- both of them hurt --
and as they swum down the current the men run along
the bank shooting at them and singing out, "Kill
them, kill them!" It made me so sick I most fell out
of the tree. I ain't a-going to tell ALL that happened --
it would make me sick again if I was to do that. I
wished I hadn't ever come ashore that night to see
such things. I ain't ever going to get shut of them --
lots of times I dream about them.
I stayed in the tree till it begun to get dark, afraid
to come down. Sometimes I heard guns away off in
the woods; and twice I seen little gangs of men gallop
past the log store with guns; so I reckoned the trouble
was still a-going on. I was mighty downhearted; so I
made up my mind I wouldn't ever go anear that house
again, because I reckoned I was to blame, somehow.
I judged that that piece of paper meant that Miss
Sophia was to meet Harney somewheres at half-past
two and run off; and I judged I ought to told her
father about that paper and the curious way she acted,
and then maybe he would a locked her up, and this
awful mess wouldn't ever happened.
When I got down out of the tree I crept along down
the river bank a piece, and found the two bodies laying
in the edge of the water, and tugged at them till I got
them ashore; then I covered up their faces, and got
away as quick as I could. I cried a little when I was
covering up Buck's face, for he was mighty good to me.
It was just dark now. I never went near the house,
but struck through the woods and made for the
swamp. Jim warn't on his island, so I tramped off in
a hurry for the crick, and crowded through the willows,
red-hot to jump aboard and get out of that awful
country. The raft was gone! My souls, but I was
scared! I couldn't get my breath for most a minute.
Then I raised a yell. A voice not twenty-five foot
from me says:
"Good lan'! is dat you, honey? Doan' make no
It was Jim's voice -- nothing ever sounded so good
before. I run along the bank a piece and got aboard,
and Jim he grabbed me and hugged me, he was so glad
to see me. He says:
"Laws bless you, chile, I 'uz right down sho' you's
dead agin. Jack's been heah; he say he reck'n you's
ben shot, kase you didn' come home no mo'; so I's
jes' dis minute a startin' de raf' down towards de mouf
er de crick, so's to be all ready for to shove out en
leave soon as Jack comes agin en tells me for certain
you IS dead. Lawsy, I's mighty glad to git you back
again, honey.
I says:
"All right -- that's mighty good; they won't find
me, and they'll think I've been killed, and floated down
the river -- there's something up there that 'll help them
think so -- so don't you lose no time, Jim, but just
shove off for the big water as fast as ever you can."
I never felt easy till the raft was two mile below
there and out in the middle of the Mississippi. Then
we hung up our signal lantern, and judged that we was
free and safe once more. I hadn't had a bite to eat
since yesterday, so Jim he got out some corn-dodgers
and buttermilk, and pork and cabbage and greens --
there ain't nothing in the world so good when it's
cooked right -- and whilst I eat my supper we talked
and had a good time. I was powerful glad to get
away from the feuds, and so was Jim to get away from
the swamp. We said there warn't no home like a
raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up
and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel mighty free
and easy and comfortable on a raft.
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 daylight
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 everything
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 breakfast.
And afterwards we would watch the lonesomeness
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 expecting
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
"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 medicines;
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 baldhead.
"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 forget
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 confidence
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 freedom;
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 companionship
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 lookin'
at this very moment on the pore disappeared
Dauphin, Looy the Seventeen, son of Looy the Sixteen
and Marry Antonette."
"You! At your age! No! You mean you're
the late Charlemagne; you must be six or seven hundred
years old, at the very least."
"Trouble has done it, Bilgewater, trouble has done
it; trouble has brung these gray hairs and this premature
balditude. Yes, gentlemen, you see before you,
in blue jeans and misery, the wanderin', exiled, trampled-
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 oncomfortable.
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
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
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 believed
he was a runaway nigger. We don't run daytimes
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
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 tick better than Jim's, which was a cornshuck
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
"'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 everything;
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-bumbum-
bum -- and the thunder would go rumbling and
grumbling away, and quit -- and then RIP comes another
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 overboard.
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
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 carpetbag,
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 admission,
and "furnish charts of character at twenty-five
cents apiece." The duke said that was HIM. In another
bill he was the "world-renowned Shakespearian
tragedian, Garrick the Younger, of Drury Lane, London."
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 nightgown
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 Sunday.
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 campmeeting,
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,
The duke said what he was after was a printingoffice.
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
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 towlinen
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 campmeeting,
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 condition
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' plantation,
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 anybody
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 which?"
"Hamlet's soliloquy, you know; the most celebrated
thing in Shakespeare. Ah, it's sublime, sublime! Always
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 recollection's
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 showbills
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,
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
Romeo and Juliet ! ! !
Romeo...................Mr. Garrick
Juliet..................Mr. Kean
Assisted by the whole strength of the company!
New costumes, new scenes, new appointments!
The thrilling, masterly, and blood-curdling
Broad-sword conflict
In Richard III. ! ! !
Richard III.............Mr. Garrick
Richmond................Mr. Kean
(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 concerns
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 overflowed.
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 different
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 whitewashed
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 people
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, because
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 somebody
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
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 naturedest
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 Sherburn
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 minutes,
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 aflying.
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 minutes
here comes Boggs again, but not on his horse.
He was a-reeling across the street towards me, bareheaded,
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, squirming
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. Everybody
that seen the shooting was telling how it happened,
and there was a big crowd packed around each
one of these fellows, stretching their necks and listening.
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 bobbing
their heads to show they understood, and stooping
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 hanging
THEY swarmed up towards Sherburn's house, awhooping
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, looking
down. The stillness was awful creepy and uncomfortable.
Sherburn run his eye slow along the crowd;
and wherever it struck the people tried a little to outgaze
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 courage
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 perfectly
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 cracking
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:
The World-Renowned Tragedians
Of the London and Continental
In their Thrilling Tragedy of
Admission 50 cents.
Then at the bottom was the biggest line of all, which
"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 abragging
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 expectations
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, ringstreaked-
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 hawhawed
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 performed
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
"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 advise
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
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 sixtyfive
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
"Don't it s'prise you de way dem kings carries on,
"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 rapscallions;
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 Superintendent
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 morning.
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
"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, besides,
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 'Lizabeth!
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 hisself
as long's he live!' Oh, she was plumb deef en
dumb, Huck, plumb deef en dumb -- en I'd ben atreat'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 anybody
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 judgment;
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 before.
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 laying
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
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
"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. Robinson,
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 sometimes,
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 Harvey'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 loading,
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 paddle
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 steamboat
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
"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
"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
"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 shoulder,
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 shoulders;
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 disgusting.
Well, by and by the king he gets up and comes forward
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 sympathy
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 goodygoody
Amen, and turns himself loose and goes to crying
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. Robinson,
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-googoo"
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 aboveboard;
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 yallerboys,
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
"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 leatherheaded
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
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 anything;
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 tomorrow
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 ironjawed
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 physician?
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 everybody
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 crying;
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
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."
"You did!"
"I didn't."
"You did."
"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
"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
"Well, did you have to go to Congress to get
"Why, no."
"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 Congresswater
-- 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
"Do you go to church, too?"
"Yes -- regular."
"Where do you set?"
"Why, in our pew."
"WHOSE 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! 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 nothing?"
"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."
"Nor church?"
"Nor church."
"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 account
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
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
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
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 tonight
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. Upstairs
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, because
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 comfortable.
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
"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 snoring.
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 remainders
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, showing
the dead man's face down in there, with a wet
cloth over it, and his shroud on. I tucked the moneybag
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 keeping
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 soothering
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 getting
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 undertaker'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 congregation
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 everybody
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 noontime,
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 scandalous
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
"Hello! When was that?"
"It was the day we had the funeral. In the morning.
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
"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 business
-- 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 excited
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
"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 reddened
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
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!"
Says I:
"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 anybody
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 something
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 leatherface
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 goodmorning,
and never --"
"There, there, don't! Yes, I'll go before breakfast
-- I'll be glad to. And leave my sisters with
"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 neighbor
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?"
"Oh, yes."
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 crying
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?"
They says:
"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
"Which one?"
"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
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
"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 somebody
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 England
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
"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 Proctors,
but only about the Apthorps -- which 'll be perfectly
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 sympathy
all he knowed how, and just spreading himself
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 wanting
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 gentleman
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 puzzled
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
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 sharplooking
gentleman, with a carpet-bag of the oldfashioned
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 sundown."
"HOW'D you come?"
"I come down on the Susan Powell from Cincinnati."
"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
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, gentlemen."
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 investigation,
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 anybody
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
"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
"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 examined
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 anybody
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
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 anyway,
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 HIMSELF;
but pretty soon the new gentleman broke in, and
"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
"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 rattling
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
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, somehow,
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 graveyard
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 lightning,
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 shouldering
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
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
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 breakfast!
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 alaying
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?"
I says:
"No, your majesty, we warn't -- PLEASE don't, your
"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 happened,
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 whispers,
'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
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 everything
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
"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'
"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 everything
-- and I a-trusting you all the time, like you was
my own father. You ought to been ashamed of yourself
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 mesmerizing,
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 counterfeitmoney
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 bullyragging
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 screeching;
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,
"It's a good job they got him."
"Well, I RECKON! There's two hunderd dollars reward
on him. It's like picking up money out'n the
"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
"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 feeling.
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 agoing
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, sometimes
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 sleeping;
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 decide,
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; because
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 before
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?"
I says:
"Why, that's just what I was going to ask your
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 doggery
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 nothing,
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
"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 lonesome
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 whispering
-- 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 plantations,
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 smokehouse
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; ashhopper
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 sailing
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-ame,
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
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
"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 distressed.
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 happened
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-smiling
like a house afire, and I standing pretty meek and
sweaty alongside. The old gentleman stared, and
"Why, who's that?"
"Who do you reckon 't is?"
"I hain't no idea. Who IS it?"
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 shaking;
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
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 explained
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; because
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. Being
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.
SO I started for town in the wagon, and when I was
half-way I see a wagon coming, and sure enough it
was Tom Sawyer, and I stopped and waited till he come
along. I says "Hold on!" and it stopped alongside,
and his mouth opened up like a trunk, and stayed so;
and he swallowed two or three times like a person that's
got a dry throat, and then says:
"I hain't ever done you no harm. You know that.
So, then, what you want to come back and ha'nt ME
I says:
"I hain't come back -- I hain't been GONE."
When he heard my voice it righted him up some, but
he warn't quite satisfied yet. He says:
"Don't you play nothing on me, because I wouldn't
on you. Honest injun, you ain't a ghost?"
"Honest injun, I ain't," I says.
"Well -- I -- I -- well, that ought to settle it, of
course; but I can't somehow seem to understand it no
way. Looky here, warn't you ever murdered AT ALL?"
"No. I warn't ever murdered at all -- I played it
on them. You come in here and feel of me if you
don't believe me."
So he done it; and it satisfied him; and he was that
glad to see me again he didn't know what to do. And
he wanted to know all about it right off, because it was
a grand adventure, and mysterious, and so it hit him
where he lived. But I said, leave it alone till by and
by; and told his driver to wait, and we drove off a little
piece, and I told him the kind of a fix I was in, and what
did he reckon we better do? He said, let him alone a
minute, and don't disturb him. So he thought and
thought, and pretty soon he says:
"It's all right; I've got it. Take my trunk in your
wagon, and let on it's your'n; and you turn back and
fool along slow, so as to get to the house about the
time you ought to; and I'll go towards town a piece,
and take a fresh start, and get there a quarter or a half
an hour after you; and you needn't let on to know
me at first."
I says:
"All right; but wait a minute. There's one more
thing -- a thing that NOBODY don't know but me. And
that is, there's a nigger here that I'm a-trying to steal
out of slavery, and his name is JIM -- old Miss Watson's
He says:
" What ! Why, Jim is --"
He stopped and went to studying. I says:
"I know what you'll say. You'll say it's dirty, lowdown
business; but what if it is? I'm low down; and
I'm a-going to steal him, and I want you keep mum
and not let on. Will you?"
His eye lit up, and he says:
"I'll HELP you steal him!"
Well, I let go all holts then, like I was shot. It
was the most astonishing speech I ever heard -- and
I'm bound to say Tom Sawyer fell considerable in my
estimation. Only I couldn't believe it. Tom Sawyer a
"Oh, shucks!" I says; "you're joking."
"I ain't joking, either."
"Well, then," I says, "joking or no joking, if you
hear anything said about a runaway nigger, don't forget
to remember that YOU don't know nothing about
him, and I don't know nothing about him."
Then we took the trunk and put it in my wagon, and
he drove off his way and I drove mine. But of course
I forgot all about driving slow on accounts of being glad
and full of thinking; so I got home a heap too quick
for that length of a trip. The old gentleman was at
the door, and he says:
"Why, this is wonderful! Whoever would a
thought it was in that mare to do it? I wish we'd
a timed her. And she hain't sweated a hair -- not a
hair. It's wonderful. Why, I wouldn't take a hundred
dollars for that horse now -- I wouldn't, honest; and
yet I'd a sold her for fifteen before, and thought 'twas
all she was worth."
That's all he said. He was the innocentest, best old
soul I ever see. But it warn't surprising; because he
warn't only just a farmer, he was a preacher, too, and
had a little one-horse log church down back of the
plantation, which he built it himself at his own expense,
for a church and schoolhouse, and never charged nothing
for his preaching, and it was worth it, too. There
was plenty other farmer-preachers like that, and done
the same way, down South.
In about half an hour Tom's wagon drove up to the
front stile, and Aunt Sally she see it through the window,
because it was only about fifty yards, and says:
"Why, there's somebody come! I wonder who
'tis? Why, I do believe it's a stranger. Jimmy "
(that's one of the children)' "run and tell Lize to put
on another plate for dinner."
Everybody made a rush for the front door, because,
of course, a stranger don't come EVERY year, and so he
lays over the yaller-fever, for interest, when he does
come. Tom was over the stile and starting for the
house; the wagon was spinning up the road for the
village, and we was all bunched in the front door. Tom
had his store clothes on, and an audience -- and that
was always nuts for Tom Sawyer. In them circumstances
it warn't no trouble to him to throw in an
amount of style that was suitable. He warn't a boy to
meeky along up that yard like a sheep; no, he come
ca'm and important, like the ram. When he got a-front
of us he lifts his hat ever so gracious and dainty, like it
was the lid of a box that had butterflies asleep in it and
he didn't want to disturb them, and says:
"Mr. Archibald Nichols, I presume?"
"No, my boy," says the old gentleman, "I'm sorry
to say 't your driver has deceived you; Nichols's place
is down a matter of three mile more. Come in, come
Tom he took a look back over his shoulder, and says,
"Too late -- he's out of sight."
"Yes, he's gone, my son, and you must come in
and eat your dinner with us; and then we'll hitch up
and take you down to Nichols's."
"Oh, I CAN'T make you so much trouble; I couldn't
think of it. I'll walk -- I don't mind the distance."
"But we won't LET you walk -- it wouldn't be Southern
hospitality to do it. Come right in."
"Oh, DO," says Aunt Sally; "it ain't a bit of
trouble to us, not a bit in the world. You must stay.
It's a long, dusty three mile, and we can't let you walk.
And, besides, I've already told 'em to put on another
plate when I see you coming; so you mustn't disappoint
us. Come right in and make yourself at home."
So Tom he thanked them very hearty and handsome,
and let himself be persuaded, and come in; and when
he was in he said he was a stranger from Hicksville,
Ohio, and his name was William Thompson -- and he
made another bow.
Well, he run on, and on, and on, making up stuff
about Hicksville and everybody in it he could invent,
and I getting a little nervious, and wondering how this
was going to help me out of my scrape; and at last,
still talking along, he reached over and kissed Aunt
Sally right on the mouth, and then settled back again
in his chair comfortable, and was going on talking; but
she jumped up and wiped it off with the back of her
hand, and says:
"You owdacious puppy!"
He looked kind of hurt, and says:
"I'm surprised at you, m'am."
"You're s'rp -- Why, what do you reckon I am?
I've a good notion to take and -- Say, what do you
mean by kissing me?"
He looked kind of humble, and says:
"I didn't mean nothing, m'am. I didn't mean no
harm. I -- I -- thought you'd like it."
"Why, you born fool!" She took up the spinning
stick, and it looked like it was all she could do to keep
from giving him a crack with it. "What made you
think I'd like it?"
"Well, I don't know. Only, they -- they -- told
me you would."
"THEY told you I would. Whoever told you's
ANOTHER lunatic. I never heard the beat of it. Who's
"Why, everybody. They all said so, m'am."
It was all she could do to hold in; and her eyes
snapped, and her fingers worked like she wanted to
scratch him; and she says:
"Who's 'everybody'? Out with their names, or
ther'll be an idiot short."
He got up and looked distressed, and fumbled his
hat, and says:
"I'm sorry, and I warn't expecting it. They told
me to. They all told me to. They all said, kiss her;
and said she'd like it. They all said it -- every one of
them. But I'm sorry, m'am, and I won't do it no
more -- I won't, honest."
"You won't, won't you? Well, I sh'd RECKON you
"No'm, I'm honest about it; I won't ever do it
again -- till you ask me."
"Till I ASK you! Well, I never see the beat of it in
my born days! I lay you'll be the Methusalem-numskull
of creation before ever I ask you -- or the likes of
"Well," he says, "it does surprise me so. I can't
make it out, somehow. They said you would, and I
thought you would. But --" He stopped and looked
around slow, like he wished he could run across a
friendly eye somewheres, and fetched up on the old
gentleman's, and says, "Didn't YOU think she'd like
me to kiss her, sir?"
"Why, no; I -- I -- well, no, I b'lieve I didn't."
Then he looks on around the same way to me, and
"Tom, didn't YOU think Aunt Sally 'd open out her
arms and say, 'Sid Sawyer --'"
"My land!" she says, breaking in and jumping for
him, "you impudent young rascal, to fool a body
so --" and was going to hug him, but he fended her
off, and says:
"No, not till you've asked me first."
So she didn't lose no time, but asked him; and
hugged him and kissed him over and over again, and
then turned him over to the old man, and he took what
was left. And after they got a little quiet again she says:
"Why, dear me, I never see such a surprise. We
warn't looking for YOU at all, but only Tom. Sis never
wrote to me about anybody coming but him."
"It's because it warn't INTENDED for any of us to
come but Tom," he says; "but I begged and begged,
and at the last minute she let me come, too; so, coming
down the river, me and Tom thought it would be
a first-rate surprise for him to come here to the house
first, and for me to by and by tag along and drop in,
and let on to be a stranger. But it was a mistake,
Aunt Sally. This ain't no healthy place for a stranger
to come."
"No -- not impudent whelps, Sid. You ought to
had your jaws boxed; I hain't been so put out since I
don't know when. But I don't care, I don't mind
the terms -- I'd be willing to stand a thousand such
jokes to have you here. Well, to think of that performance!
I don't deny it, I was most putrified with
astonishment when you give me that smack."
We had dinner out in that broad open passage betwixt
the house and the kitchen; and there was things
enough on that table for seven families -- and all hot,
too; none of your flabby, tough meat that's laid in a
cupboard in a damp cellar all night and tastes like a
hunk of old cold cannibal in the morning. Uncle
Silas he asked a pretty long blessing over it, but it was
worth it; and it didn't cool it a bit, neither, the way
I've seen them kind of interruptions do lots of times.
There was a considerable good deal of talk all the
afternoon, and me and Tom was on the lookout all the
time; but it warn't no use, they didn't happen to say
nothing about any runaway nigger, and we was afraid
to try to work up to it. But at supper, at night, one
of the little boys says:
"Pa, mayn't Tom and Sid and me go to the show?"
"No," says the old man, "I reckon there ain't going
to be any; and you couldn't go if there was; because
the runaway nigger told Burton and me all about
that scandalous show, and Burton said he would tell the
people; so I reckon they've drove the owdacious loafers
out of town before this time."
So there it was! -- but I couldn't help it. Tom and
me was to sleep in the same room and bed; so, being
tired, we bid good-night and went up to bed right after
supper, and clumb out of the window and down the
lightning-rod, and shoved for the town; for I didn't
believe anybody was going to give the king and the
duke a hint, and so if I didn't hurry up and give them
one they'd get into trouble sure.
On the road Tom he told me all about how it was
reckoned I was murdered, and how pap disappeared
pretty soon, and didn't come back no more, and what
a stir there was when Jim run away; and I told Tom
all about our Royal Nonesuch rapscallions, and as
much of the raft voyage as I had time to; and as we
struck into the town and up through the -- here comes a
raging rush of people with torches, and an awful
whooping and yelling, and banging tin pans and blowing
horns; and we jumped to one side to let them go
by; and as they went by I see they had the king and
the duke astraddle of a rail -- that is, I knowed it WAS
the king and the duke, though they was all over tar and
feathers, and didn't look like nothing in the world that
was human -- just looked like a couple of monstrous
big soldier-plumes. Well, it made me sick to see it;
and I was sorry for them poor pitiful rascals, it seemed
like I couldn't ever feel any hardness against them any
more in the world. It was a dreadful thing to see.
Human beings CAN be awful cruel to one another.
We see we was too late -- couldn't do no good. We
asked some stragglers about it, and they said everybody
went to the show looking very innocent; and laid
low and kept dark till the poor old king was in the
middle of his cavortings on the stage; then somebody
give a signal, and the house rose up and went for
So we poked along back home, and I warn't feeling
so brash as I was before, but kind of ornery, and
humble, and to blame, somehow -- though I hadn't
done nothing. But that's always the way; it don't
make no difference whether you do right or wrong, a
person's conscience ain't got no sense, and just goes for
him anyway. If I had a yaller dog that didn't know
no more than a person's conscience does I would pison
him. It takes up more room than all the rest of a
person's insides, and yet ain't no good, nohow. Tom
Sawyer he says the same.
WE stopped talking, and got to thinking. By and by
Tom says:
"Looky here, Huck, what fools we are to not think
of it before! I bet I know where Jim is."
"No! Where?"
"In that hut down by the ash-hopper. Why, looky
here. When we was at dinner, didn't you see a nigger
man go in there with some vittles?"
"What did you think the vittles was for?"
"For a dog."
"So 'd I. Well, it wasn't for a dog."
"Because part of it was watermelon."
"So it was -- I noticed it. Well, it does beat all
that I never thought about a dog not eating watermelon.
It shows how a body can see and don't see at
the same time."
"Well, the nigger unlocked the padlock when he
went in, and he locked it again when he came out. He
fetched uncle a key about the time we got up from
table -- same key, I bet. Watermelon shows man,
lock shows prisoner; and it ain't likely there's two
prisoners on such a little plantation, and where the
people's all so kind and good. Jim's the prisoner.
All right -- I'm glad we found it out detective fashion;
I wouldn't give shucks for any other way. Now you
work your mind, and study out a plan to steal Jim, and
I will study out one, too; and we'll take the one we
like the best."
What a head for just a boy to have! If I had Tom
Sawyer's head I wouldn't trade it off to be a duke, nor
mate of a steamboat, nor clown in a circus, nor nothing
I can think of. I went to thinking out a plan, but only
just to be doing something; I knowed very well where
the right plan was going to come from. Pretty soon
Tom says:
"Yes," I says.
"All right -- bring it out."
"My plan is this," I says. "We can easy find out
if it's Jim in there. Then get up my canoe to-morrow
night, and fetch my raft over from the island. Then
the first dark night that comes steal the key out of the
old man's britches after he goes to bed, and shove off
down the river on the raft with Jim, hiding daytimes
and running nights, the way me and Jim used to do before.
Wouldn't that plan work?"
"WORK? Why, cert'nly it would work, like rats
a-fighting. But it's too blame' simple; there ain't
nothing TO it. What's the good of a plan that ain't no
more trouble than that? It's as mild as goose-milk.
Why, Huck, it wouldn't make no more talk than breaking
into a soap factory."
I never said nothing, because I warn't expecting nothing
different; but I knowed mighty well that whenever
he got HIS plan ready it wouldn't have none of them
objections to it.
And it didn't. He told me what it was, and I see in
a minute it was worth fifteen of mine for style, and
would make Jim just as free a man as mine would, and
maybe get us all killed besides. So I was satisfied, and
said we would waltz in on it. I needn't tell what it
was here, because I knowed it wouldn't stay the way, it
was. I knowed he would be changing it around every
which way as we went along, and heaving in new bullinesses
wherever he got a chance. And that is what
he done.
Well, one thing was dead sure, and that was that Tom
Sawyer was in earnest, and was actuly going to help
steal that nigger out of slavery. That was the thing
that was too many for me. Here was a boy that was
respectable and well brung up; and had a character to
lose; and folks at home that had characters; and he
was bright and not leather-headed; and knowing and
not ignorant; and not mean, but kind; and yet here
he was, without any more pride, or rightness, or feeling,
than to stoop to this business, and make himself a
shame, and his family a shame, before everybody. I
COULDN'T understand it no way at all. It was outrageous,
and I knowed I ought to just up and tell him so;
and so be his true friend, and let him quit the thing
right where he was and save himself. And I DID start
to tell him; but he shut me up, and says:
"Don't you reckon I know what I'm about? Don't
I generly know what I'm about?"
"Didn't I SAY I was going to help steal the nigger?"
"WELL, then."
That's all he said, and that's all I said. It warn't no
use to say any more; because when he said he'd do a
thing, he always done it. But I couldn't make out
how he was willing to go into this thing; so I just let it
go, and never bothered no more about it. If he was
bound to have it so, I couldn't help it.
When we got home the house was all dark and still;
so we went on down to the hut by the ash-hopper for
to examine it. We went through the yard so as to see
what the hounds would do. They knowed us, and
didn't make no more noise than country dogs is always
doing when anything comes by in the night. When
we got to the cabin we took a look at the front and the
two sides; and on the side I warn't acquainted with --
which was the north side -- we found a square windowhole,
up tolerable high, with just one stout board nailed
across it. I says:
"Here's the ticket. This hole's big enough for Jim
to get through if we wrench off the board."
Tom says:
"It's as simple as tit-tat-toe, three-in-a-row, and as
easy as playing hooky. I should HOPE we can find a
way that's a little more complicated than THAT, Huck
"Well, then," I says, "how 'll it do to saw him out,
the way I done before I was murdered that time?"
"That's more LIKE," he says. "It's real mysterious,
and troublesome, and good," he says; "but I bet we
can find a way that's twice as long. There ain't no
hurry; le's keep on looking around."
Betwixt the hut and the fence, on the back side, was
a lean-to that joined the hut at the eaves, and was made
out of plank. It was as long as the hut, but narrow
-- only about six foot wide. The door to it was at the
south end, and was padlocked. Tom he went to the
soap-kettle and searched around, and fetched back the
iron thing they lift the lid with; so he took it and
prized out one of the staples. The chain fell down,
and we opened the door and went in, and shut it, and
struck a match, and see the shed was only built against
a cabin and hadn't no connection with it; and there
warn't no floor to the shed, nor nothing in it but some
old rusty played-out hoes and spades and picks and
a crippled plow. The match went out, and so did we,
and shoved in the staple again, and the door was locked
as good as ever. Tom was joyful. He says;
"Now we're all right. We'll DIG him out. It 'll
take about a week!"
Then we started for the house, and I went in the
back door -- you only have to pull a buckskin latchstring,
they don't fasten the doors -- but that warn't
romantical enough for Tom Sawyer; no way would do
him but he must climb up the lightning-rod. But after
he got up half way about three times, and missed fire
and fell every time, and the last time most busted his
brains out, he thought he'd got to give it up; but after
he was rested he allowed he would give her one more
turn for luck, and this time he made the trip.
In the morning we was up at break of day, and down
to the nigger cabins to pet the dogs and make friends
with the nigger that fed Jim -- if it WAS Jim that was
being fed. The niggers was just getting through breakfast
and starting for the fields; and Jim's nigger was
piling up a tin pan with bread and meat and things;
and whilst the others was leaving, the key come from
the house.
This nigger had a good-natured, chuckle-headed face,
and his wool was all tied up in little bunches with
thread. That was to keep witches off. He said the
witches was pestering him awful these nights, and making
him see all kinds of strange things, and hear all kinds
of strange words and noises, and he didn't believe he
was ever witched so long before in his life. He got
so worked up, and got to running on so about his
troubles, he forgot all about what he'd been a-going to
do. So Tom says:
"What's the vittles for? Going to feed the dogs?"
The nigger kind of smiled around graduly over his
face, like when you heave a brickbat in a mud-puddle,
and he says:
"Yes, Mars Sid, A dog. Cur'us dog, too. Does
you want to go en look at 'im?"
I hunched Tom, and whispers:
"You going, right here in the daybreak? THAT
warn't the plan."
"No, it warn't; but it's the plan NOW."
So, drat him, we went along, but I didn't like it
much. When we got in we couldn't hardly see anything,
it was so dark; but Jim was there, sure enough,
and could see us; and he sings out:
"Why, HUCK! En good LAN'! ain' dat Misto Tom?"
I just knowed how it would be; I just expected it.
I didn't know nothing to do; and if I had I couldn't
a done it, because that nigger busted in and says:
"Why, de gracious sakes! do he know you genlmen?"
We could see pretty well now. Tom he looked at
the nigger, steady and kind of wondering, and says:
"Does WHO know us?"
"Why, dis-yer runaway nigger."
"I don't reckon he does; but what put that into
your head?"
"What PUT it dar? Didn' he jis' dis minute sing
out like he knowed you?"
Tom says, in a puzzled-up kind of way:
"Well, that's mighty curious. WHO sung out?
WHEN did he sing out? WHAT did he sing out?"
And turns to me, perfectly ca'm, and says, "Did
YOU hear anybody sing out?"
Of course there warn't nothing to be said but the one
thing; so I says:
"No; I ain't heard nobody say nothing."
Then he turns to Jim, and looks him over like he
never see him before, and says:
"Did you sing out?"
"No, sah," says Jim; " I hain't said nothing, sah."
"Not a word?"
"No, sah, I hain't said a word."
"Did you ever see us before?"
"No, sah; not as I knows on."
So Tom turns to the nigger, which was looking wild
and distressed, and says, kind of severe:
"What do you reckon's the matter with you, anyway?
What made you think somebody sung out?"
"Oh, it's de dad-blame' witches, sah, en I wisht I
was dead, I do. Dey's awluz at it, sah, en dey do
mos' kill me, dey sk'yers me so. Please to don't tell
nobody 'bout it sah, er ole Mars Silas he'll scole me;
'kase he say dey AIN'T no witches. I jis' wish to goodness
he was heah now -- DEN what would he say! I
jis' bet he couldn' fine no way to git aroun' it DIS time.
But it's awluz jis' so; people dat's SOT, stays sot; dey
won't look into noth'n'en fine it out f'r deyselves, en
when YOU fine it out en tell um 'bout it, dey doan'
b'lieve you."
Tom give him a dime, and said we wouldn't tell nobody;
and told him to buy some more thread to tie up
his wool with; and then looks at Jim, and says:
"I wonder if Uncle Silas is going to hang this nigger.
If I was to catch a nigger that was ungrateful enough
to run away, I wouldn't give him up, I'd hang him."
And whilst the nigger stepped to the door to look at
the dime and bite it to see if it was good, he whispers
to Jim and says:
"Don't ever let on to know us. And if you hear
any digging going on nights, it's us; we're going to
set you free."
Jim only had time to grab us by the hand and squeeze
it; then the nigger come back, and we said we'd
come again some time if the nigger wanted us to; and
he said he would, more particular if it was dark, because
the witches went for him mostly in the dark, and
it was good to have folks around then.
IT would be most an hour yet till breakfast, so we left
and struck down into the woods; because Tom said
we got to have SOME light to see how to dig by, and a
lantern makes too much, and might get us into trouble;
what we must have was a lot of them rotten chunks
that's called fox-fire, and just makes a soft kind of a
glow when you lay them in a dark place. We fetched
an armful and hid it in the weeds, and set down to rest,
and Tom says, kind of dissatisfied:
"Blame it, this whole thing is just as easy and
awkward as it can be. And so it makes it so rotten
difficult to get up a difficult plan. There ain't no watchman
to be drugged -- now there OUGHT to be a watchman.
There ain't even a dog to give a sleeping-mixture
to. And there's Jim chained by one leg, with a
ten-foot chain, to the leg of his bed: why, all you got
to do is to lift up the bedstead and slip off the chain.
And Uncle Silas he trusts everybody; sends the key
to the punkin-headed nigger, and don't send nobody to
watch the nigger. Jim could a got out of that windowhole
before this, only there wouldn't be no use trying
to travel with a ten-foot chain on his leg. Why, drat
it, Huck, it's the stupidest arrangement I ever see.
You got to invent ALL the difficulties. Well, we can't
help it; we got to do the best we can with the materials
we've got. Anyhow, there's one thing -- there's more
honor in getting him out through a lot of difficulties
and dangers, where there warn't one of them furnished
to you by the people who it was their duty to furnish
them, and you had to contrive them all out of your
own head. Now look at just that one thing of the
lantern. When you come down to the cold facts, we
simply got to LET ON that a lantern's resky. Why, we
could work with a torchlight procession if we wanted
to, I believe. Now, whilst I think of it, we got to
hunt up something to make a saw out of the first
chance we get."
"What do we want of a saw?"
"What do we WANT of a saw? Hain't we got to
saw the leg of Jim's bed off, so as to get the chain
"Why, you just said a body could lift up the bedstead
and slip the chain off."
"Well, if that ain't just like you, Huck Finn. You
CAN get up the infant-schooliest ways of going at a
thing. Why, hain't you ever read any books at all?
-- Baron Trenck, nor Casanova, nor Benvenuto Chelleeny,
nor Henri IV., nor none of them heroes? Who
ever heard of getting a prisoner loose in such an oldmaidy
way as that? No; the way all the best authorities
does is to saw the bed-leg in two, and leave it just
so, and swallow the sawdust, so it can't be found, and
put some dirt and grease around the sawed place so the
very keenest seneskal can't see no sign of it's being
sawed, and thinks the bed-leg is perfectly sound. Then,
the night you're ready, fetch the leg a kick, down she
goes; slip off your chain, and there you are. Nothing
to do but hitch your rope ladder to the battlements, shin
down it, break your leg in the moat -- because a rope
ladder is nineteen foot too short, you know -- and there's
your horses and your trusty vassles, and they scoop
you up and fling you across a saddle, and away you go
to your native Langudoc, or Navarre, or wherever it is.
It's gaudy, Huck. I wish there was a moat to this
cabin. If we get time, the night of the escape,
we'll dig one."
I says:
"What do we want of a moat when we're going to
snake him out from under the cabin?"
But he never heard me. He had forgot me and
everything else. He had his chin in his hand, thinking.
Pretty soon he sighs and shakes his head; then sighs
again, and says:
"No, it wouldn't do -- there ain't necessity enough
for it."
"For what?" I says.
"Why, to saw Jim's leg off," he says.
"Good land!" I says; "why, there ain't NO necessity
for it. And what would you want to saw his leg
off for, anyway?"
"Well, some of the best authorities has done it.
They couldn't get the chain off, so they just cut their
hand off and shoved. And a leg would be better still.
But we got to let that go. There ain't necessity
enough in this case; and, besides, Jim's a nigger, and
wouldn't understand the reasons for it, and how it's the
custom in Europe; so we'll let it go. But there's one
thing -- he can have a rope ladder; we can tear up our
sheets and make him a rope ladder easy enough. And
we can send it to him in a pie; it's mostly done that
way. And I've et worse pies."
"Why, Tom Sawyer, how you talk," I says; "Jim
ain't got no use for a rope ladder."
"He HAS got use for it. How YOU talk, you better
say; you don't know nothing about it. He's GOT to
have a rope ladder; they all do."
"What in the nation can he DO with it?"
"DO with it? He can hide it in his bed, can't he?"
That's what they all do; and HE'S got to, too.
Huck, you don't ever seem to want to do anything
that's regular; you want to be starting something fresh
all the time. S'pose he DON'T do nothing with it? ain't
it there in his bed, for a clew, after he's gone? and
don't you reckon they'll want clews? Of course they
will. And you wouldn't leave them any? That would
be a PRETTY howdy-do, WOULDN'T it! I never heard of
such a thing."
"Well," I says, "if it's in the regulations, and he's
got to have it, all right, let him have it; because I
don't wish to go back on no regulations; but there's
one thing, Tom Sawyer -- if we go to tearing up our
sheets to make Jim a rope ladder, we're going to get
into trouble with Aunt Sally, just as sure as you're
born. Now, the way I look at it, a hickry-bark ladder
don't cost nothing, and don't waste nothing, and is
just as good to load up a pie with, and hide in a straw
tick, as any rag ladder you can start; and as for Jim,
he ain't had no experience, and so he don't care what
kind of a --"
"Oh, shucks, Huck Finn, if I was as ignorant as
you I'd keep still -- that's what I'D do. Who ever
heard of a state prisoner escaping by a hickry-bark
ladder? Why, it's perfectly ridiculous."
"Well, all right, Tom, fix it your own way; but if
you'll take my advice, you'll let me borrow a sheet off
of the clothesline."
He said that would do. And that gave him another
idea, and he says:
"Borrow a shirt, too."
"What do we want of a shirt, Tom?"
"Want it for Jim to keep a journal on."
"Journal your granny -- JIM can't write."
"S'pose he CAN'T write -- he can make marks on
the shirt, can't he, if we make him a pen out of
an old pewter spoon or a piece of an old iron barrelhoop?"
"Why, Tom, we can pull a feather out of a goose
and make him a better one; and quicker, too."
"PRISONERS don't have geese running around the
donjon-keep to pull pens out of, you muggins. They
ALWAYS make their pens out of the hardest, toughest,
troublesomest piece of old brass candlestick or something
like that they can get their hands on; and it
takes them weeks and weeks and months and months
to file it out, too, because they've got to do it by rubbing
it on the wall. THEY wouldn't use a goose-quill if
they had it. It ain't regular."
"Well, then, what'll we make him the ink out of?"
"Many makes it out of iron-rust and tears; but
that's the common sort and women; the best authorities
uses their own blood. Jim can do that; and when
he wants to send any little common ordinary mysterious
message to let the world know where he's captivated,
he can write it on the bottom of a tin plate with a fork
and throw it out of the window. The Iron Mask
always done that, and it's a blame' good way, too."
"Jim ain't got no tin plates. They feed him in a
"That ain't nothing; we can get him some."
"Can't nobody READ his plates."
"That ain't got anything to DO with it, Huck Finn.
All HE'S got to do is to write on the plate and throw
it out. You don't HAVE to be able to read it. Why,
half the time you can't read anything a prisoner writes
on a tin plate, or anywhere else."
"Well, then, what's the sense in wasting the plates?"
"Why, blame it all, it ain't the PRISONER'S plates."
"But it's SOMEBODY'S plates, ain't it?"
"Well, spos'n it is? What does the PRISONER care
whose --"
He broke off there, because we heard the breakfasthorn
blowing. So we cleared out for the house.
Along during the morning I borrowed a sheet and a
white shirt off of the clothes-line; and I found an old
sack and put them in it, and we went down and got the
fox-fire, and put that in too. I called it borrowing,
because that was what pap always called it; but Tom
said it warn't borrowing, it was stealing. He said we
was representing prisoners; and prisoners don't care
how they get a thing so they get it, and nobody don't
blame them for it, either. It ain't no crime in a
prisoner to steal the thing he needs to get away with,
Tom said; it's his right; and so, as long as we was
representing a prisoner, we had a perfect right to steal
anything on this place we had the least use for to get
ourselves out of prison with. He said if we warn't
prisoners it would be a very different thing, and nobody
but a mean, ornery person would steal when he warn't
a prisoner. So we allowed we would steal everything
there was that come handy. And yet he made
a mighty fuss, one day, after that, when I stole a
watermelon out of the nigger-patch and eat it; and he
made me go and give the niggers a dime without telling
them what it was for. Tom said that what he meant
was, we could steal anything we NEEDED. Well, I says,
I needed the watermelon. But he said I didn't need it
to get out of prison with; there's where the difference
was. He said if I'd a wanted it to hide a knife in, and
smuggle it to Jim to kill the seneskal with, it would a
been all right. So I let it go at that, though I couldn't
see no advantage in my representing a prisoner if I got
to set down and chaw over a lot of gold-leaf distinctions
like that every time I see a chance to hog a watermelon.
Well, as I was saying, we waited that morning till
everybody was settled down to business, and nobody
in sight around the yard; then Tom he carried the
sack into the lean-to whilst I stood off a piece to keep
watch. By and by he come out, and we went and set
down on the woodpile to talk. He says:
"Everything's all right now except tools; and that's
easy fixed."
"Tools?" I says.
"Tools for what?"
"Why, to dig with. We ain't a-going to GNAW him
out, are we?"
"Ain't them old crippled picks and things in there
good enough to dig a nigger out with?" I says.
He turns on me, looking pitying enough to make a
body cry, and says:
"Huck Finn, did you EVER hear of a prisoner having
picks and shovels, and all the modern conveniences in
his wardrobe to dig himself out with? Now I want to
ask you -- if you got any reasonableness in you at all
-- what kind of a show would THAT give him to be a
hero? Why, they might as well lend him the key and
done with it. Picks and shovels -- why, they wouldn't
furnish 'em to a king."
"Well, then," I says, "if we don't want the picks
and shovels, what do we want?"
"A couple of case-knives."
"To dig the foundations out from under that cabin
"Confound it, it's foolish, Tom."
"It don't make no difference how foolish it is, it's
the RIGHT way -- and it's the regular way. And there
ain't no OTHER way, that ever I heard of, and I've read
all the books that gives any information about these
things. They always dig out with a case-knife -- and
not through dirt, mind you; generly it's through solid
rock. And it takes them weeks and weeks and weeks,
and for ever and ever. Why, look at one of them
prisoners in the bottom dungeon of the Castle Deef, in
the harbor of Marseilles, that dug himself out that way;
how long was HE at it, you reckon?"
"I don't know."
"Well, guess."
"I don't know. A month and a half."
"THIRTY-SEVEN YEAR -- and he come out in China.
THAT'S the kind. I wish the bottom of THIS fortress
was solid rock."
"JIM don't know nobody in China."
"What's THAT got to do with it? Neither did that
other fellow. But you're always a-wandering off on a
side issue. Why can't you stick to the main point?"
"All right -- I don't care where he comes out, so he
COMES out; and Jim don't, either, I reckon. But
there's one thing, anyway -- Jim's too old to be dug
out with a case-knife. He won't last."
"Yes he will LAST, too. You don't reckon it's going
to take thirty-seven years to dig out through a DIRT
foundation, do you?"
"How long will it take, Tom?"
"Well, we can't resk being as long as we ought to,
because it mayn't take very long for Uncle Silas to hear
from down there by New Orleans. He'll hear Jim ain't
from there. Then his next move will be to advertise Jim,
or something like that. So we can't resk being as long
digging him out as we ought to. By rights I reckon
we ought to be a couple of years; but we can't.
Things being so uncertain, what I recommend is this:
that we really dig right in, as quick as we can; and
after that, we can LET ON, to ourselves, that we was at
it thirty-seven years. Then we can snatch him out and
rush him away the first time there's an alarm. Yes, I
reckon that 'll be the best way."
"Now, there's SENSE in that," I says. "Letting on
don't cost nothing; letting on ain't no trouble; and if
it's any object, I don't mind letting on we was at it a
hundred and fifty year. It wouldn't strain me none,
after I got my hand in. So I'll mosey along now, and
smouch a couple of case-knives."
"Smouch three," he says; "we want one to make
a saw out of."
"Tom, if it ain't unregular and irreligious to sejest
it," I says, "there's an old rusty saw-blade around
yonder sticking under the weather-boarding behind the
He looked kind of weary and discouraged-like, and
"It ain't no use to try to learn you nothing, Huck.
Run along and smouch the knives -- three of them."
So I done it.
AS soon as we reckoned everybody was asleep that
night we went down the lightning-rod, and shut
ourselves up in the lean-to, and got out our pile of
fox-fire, and went to work. We cleared everything
out of the way, about four or five foot along the middle
of the bottom log. Tom said we was right behind
Jim's bed now, and we'd dig in under it, and when we
got through there couldn't nobody in the cabin ever
know there was any hole there, because Jim's counterpin
hung down most to the ground, and you'd have to
raise it up and look under to see the hole. So we dug
and dug with the case-knives till most midnight; and
then we was dog-tired, and our hands was blistered,
and yet you couldn't see we'd done anything hardly.
At last I says:
"This ain't no thirty-seven year job; this is a
thirty-eight year job, Tom Sawyer."
He never said nothing. But he sighed, and pretty
soon he stopped digging, and then for a good little
while I knowed that he was thinking. Then he says:
"It ain't no use, Huck, it ain't a-going to work. If
we was prisoners it would, because then we'd have as
many years as we wanted, and no hurry; and we
wouldn't get but a few minutes to dig, every day,
while they was changing watches, and so our hands
wouldn't get blistered, and we could keep it up right
along, year in and year out, and do it right, and the
way it ought to be done. But WE can't fool along;
we got to rush; we ain't got no time to spare. If we
was to put in another night this way we'd have to
knock off for a week to let our hands get well --
couldn't touch a case-knife with them sooner."
"Well, then, what we going to do, Tom?"
"I'll tell you. It ain't right, and it ain't moral,
and I wouldn't like it to get out; but there ain't only
just the one way: we got to dig him out with the
picks, and LET ON it's case-knives."
"NOW you're TALKING!" I says; "your head gets
leveler and leveler all the time, Tom Sawyer," I
says. "Picks is the thing, moral or no moral; and as
for me, I don't care shucks for the morality of it,
nohow. When I start in to steal a nigger, or a watermelon,
or a Sunday-school book, I ain't no ways
particular how it's done so it's done. What I want is
my nigger; or what I want is my watermelon; or what
I want is my Sunday-school book; and if a pick's the
handiest thing, that's the thing I'm a-going to dig that
nigger or that watermelon or that Sunday-school book
out with; and I don't give a dead rat what the authorities
thinks about it nuther."
"Well," he says, "there's excuse for picks and
letting-on in a case like this; if it warn't so, I wouldn't
approve of it, nor I wouldn't stand by and see the
rules broke -- because right is right, and wrong is
wrong, and a body ain't got no business doing wrong
when he ain't ignorant and knows better. It might
answer for YOU to dig Jim out with a pick, WITHOUT any
letting on, because you don't know no better; but it
wouldn't for me, because I do know better. Gimme
a case-knife."
He had his own by him, but I handed him mine.
He flung it down, and says:
"Gimme a CASE-KNIFE."
I didn't know just what to do -- but then I thought.
I scratched around amongst the old tools, and got a
pickaxe and give it to him, and he took it and went to
work, and never said a word.
He was always just that particular. Full of principle.
So then I got a shovel, and then we picked and
shoveled, turn about, and made the fur fly. We stuck
to it about a half an hour, which was as long as we
could stand up; but we had a good deal of a hole to
show for it. When I got up stairs I looked out at the
window and see Tom doing his level best with the
lightning-rod, but he couldn't come it, his hands was
so sore. At last he says:
"It ain't no use, it can't be done. What you
reckon I better do? Can't you think of no way?"
"Yes," I says, "but I reckon it ain't regular.
Come up the stairs, and let on it's a lightning-rod."
So he done it.
Next day Tom stole a pewter spoon and a brass
candlestick in the house, for to make some pens for
Jim out of, and six tallow candles; and I hung around
the nigger cabins and laid for a chance, and stole three
tin plates. Tom says it wasn't enough; but I said
nobody wouldn't ever see the plates that Jim throwed
out, because they'd fall in the dog-fennel and jimpson
weeds under the window-hole -- then we could tote
them back and he could use them over again. So
Tom was satisfied. Then he says:
"Now, the thing to study out is, how to get the
things to Jim."
"Take them in through the hole," I says, "when
we get it done."
He only just looked scornful, and said something
about nobody ever heard of such an idiotic idea, and
then he went to studying. By and by he said he had
ciphered out two or three ways, but there warn't no
need to decide on any of them yet. Said we'd got to
post Jim first.
That night we went down the lightning-rod a little
after ten, and took one of the candles along, and
listened under the window-hole, and heard Jim snoring;
so we pitched it in, and it didn't wake him. Then we
whirled in with the pick and shovel, and in about two
hours and a half the job was done. We crept in under
Jim's bed and into the cabin, and pawed around and
found the candle and lit it, and stood over Jim awhile,
and found him looking hearty and healthy, and then
we woke him up gentle and gradual. He was so glad to
see us he most cried; and called us honey, and all the
pet names he could think of; and was for having us
hunt up a cold-chisel to cut the chain off of his leg
with right away, and clearing out without losing any
time. But Tom he showed him how unregular it
would be, and set down and told him all about our
plans, and how we could alter them in a minute any
time there was an alarm; and not to be the least afraid,
because we would see he got away, SURE. So Jim he
said it was all right, and we set there and talked over
old times awhile, and then Tom asked a lot of questions,
and when Jim told him Uncle Silas come in
every day or two to pray with him, and Aunt Sally
come in to see if he was comfortable and had plenty to
eat, and both of them was kind as they could be, Tom
"NOW I know how to fix it. We'll send you some
things by them."
I said, "Don't do nothing of the kind; it's one of
the most jackass ideas I ever struck;" but he never
paid no attention to me; went right on. It was his
way when he'd got his plans set.
So he told Jim how we'd have to smuggle in the
rope-ladder pie and other large things by Nat, the
nigger that fed him, and he must be on the lookout,
and not be surprised, and not let Nat see him open
them; and we would put small things in uncle's coatpockets
and he must steal them out; and we would tie
things to aunt's apron-strings or put them in her
apron-pocket, if we got a chance; and told him what
they would be and what they was for. And told him
how to keep a journal on the shirt with his blood, and
all that. He told him everything. Jim he couldn't
see no sense in the most of it, but he allowed we was
white folks and knowed better than him; so he was
satisfied, and said he would do it all just as Tom said.
Jim had plenty corn-cob pipes and tobacco; so
we had a right down good sociable time; then we
crawled out through the hole, and so home to bed,
with hands that looked like they'd been chawed. Tom
was in high spirits. He said it was the best fun he
ever had in his life, and the most intellectural; and
said if he only could see his way to it we would keep it
up all the rest of our lives and leave Jim to our children
to get out; for he believed Jim would come to like it
better and better the more he got used to it. He said
that in that way it could be strung out to as much as
eighty year, and would be the best time on record.
And he said it would make us all celebrated that had a
hand in it.
In the morning we went out to the woodpile and
chopped up the brass candlestick into handy sizes, and
Tom put them and the pewter spoon in his pocket.
Then we went to the nigger cabins, and while I got
Nat's notice off, Tom shoved a piece of candlestick
into the middle of a corn-pone that was in Jim's pan,
and we went along with Nat to see how it would work,
and it just worked noble; when Jim bit into it it most
mashed all his teeth out; and there warn't ever anything
could a worked better. Tom said so himself.
Jim he never let on but what it was only just a piece of
rock or something like that that's always getting into
bread, you know; but after that he never bit into
nothing but what he jabbed his fork into it in three or
four places first.
And whilst we was a-standing there in the dimmish
light, here comes a couple of the hounds bulging in
from under Jim's bed; and they kept on piling in till
there was eleven of them, and there warn't hardly
room in there to get your breath. By jings, we forgot
to fasten that lean-to door! The nigger Nat he only
just hollered "Witches" once, and keeled over on to
the floor amongst the dogs, and begun to groan like
he was dying. Tom jerked the door open and flung
out a slab of Jim's meat, and the dogs went for it, and
in two seconds he was out himself and back again and
shut the door, and I knowed he'd fixed the other door
too. Then he went to work on the nigger, coaxing
him and petting him, and asking him if he'd been
imagining he saw something again. He raised up, and
blinked his eyes around, and says:
"Mars Sid, you'll say I's a fool, but if I didn't
b'lieve I see most a million dogs, er devils, er some'n,
I wisht I may die right heah in dese tracks. I did,
mos' sholy. Mars Sid, I FELT um -- I FELT um, sah;
dey was all over me. Dad fetch it, I jis' wisht I
could git my han's on one er dem witches jis' wunst --
on'y jis' wunst -- it's all I'd ast. But mos'ly I wisht
dey'd lemme 'lone, I does."
Tom says:
"Well, I tell you what I think. What makes them
come here just at this runaway nigger's breakfast-time?
It's because they're hungry; that's the reason. You
make them a witch pie; that's the thing for YOU to
"But my lan', Mars Sid, how's I gwyne to make
'm a witch pie? I doan' know how to make it. I
hain't ever hearn er sich a thing b'fo'."
"Well, then, I'll have to make it myself."
"Will you do it, honey? -- will you? I'll wusshup
de groun' und' yo' foot, I will!"
"All right, I'll do it, seeing it's you, and you've
been good to us and showed us the runaway nigger.
But you got to be mighty careful. When we come
around, you turn your back; and then whatever we've
put in the pan, don't you let on you see it at all. And
don't you look when Jim unloads the pan -- something
might happen, I don't know what. And above all,
don't you HANDLE the witch-things."
"HANNEL 'm, Mars Sid? What IS you a-talkin'
'bout? I wouldn' lay de weight er my finger on
um, not f'r ten hund'd thous'n billion dollars, I
THAT was all fixed. So then we went away and
went to the rubbage-pile in the back yard, where
they keep the old boots, and rags, and pieces of
bottles, and wore-out tin things, and all such truck,
and scratched around and found an old tin washpan,
and stopped up the holes as well as we could, to bake
the pie in, and took it down cellar and stole it full of
flour and started for breakfast, and found a couple of
shingle-nails that Tom said would be handy for a
prisoner to scrabble his name and sorrows on the
dungeon walls with, and dropped one of them in Aunt
Sally's apron-pocket which was hanging on a chair,
and t'other we stuck in the band of Uncle Silas's hat,
which was on the bureau, because we heard the children
say their pa and ma was going to the runaway
nigger's house this morning, and then went to breakfast,
and Tom dropped the pewter spoon in Uncle
Silas's coat-pocket, and Aunt Sally wasn't come yet,
so we had to wait a little while.
And when she come she was hot and red and cross,
and couldn't hardly wait for the blessing; and then
she went to sluicing out coffee with one hand and
cracking the handiest child's head with her thimble
with the other, and says:
"I've hunted high and I've hunted low, and it does
beat all what HAS become of your other shirt."
My heart fell down amongst my lungs and livers
and things, and a hard piece of corn-crust started down
my throat after it and got met on the road with a
cough, and was shot across the table, and took one
of the children in the eye and curled him up like a
fishing-worm, and let a cry out of him the size of a
warwhoop, and Tom he turned kinder blue around the
gills, and it all amounted to a considerable state of
things for about a quarter of a minute or as much as
that, and I would a sold out for half price if there was
a bidder. But after that we was all right again -- it
was the sudden surprise of it that knocked us so kind
of cold. Uncle Silas he says:
"It's most uncommon curious, I can't understand
it. I know perfectly well I took it OFF, because --"
"Because you hain't got but one ON. Just LISTEN at
the man! I know you took it off, and know it by a
better way than your wool-gethering memory, too,
because it was on the clo's-line yesterday -- I see it
there myself. But it's gone, that's the long and the
short of it, and you'll just have to change to a red
flann'l one till I can get time to make a new one.
And it 'll be the third I've made in two years. It just
keeps a body on the jump to keep you in shirts; and
whatever you do manage to DO with 'm all is more'n I
can make out. A body 'd think you WOULD learn to
take some sort of care of 'em at your time of life."
"I know it, Sally, and I do try all I can. But it
oughtn't to be altogether my fault, because, you know,
I don't see them nor have nothing to do with them
except when they're on me; and I don't believe I've
ever lost one of them OFF of me."
"Well, it ain't YOUR fault if you haven't, Silas;
you'd a done it if you could, I reckon. And the shirt
ain't all that's gone, nuther. Ther's a spoon gone;
and THAT ain't all. There was ten, and now ther's only
nine. The calf got the shirt, I reckon, but the calf
never took the spoon, THAT'S certain."
"Why, what else is gone, Sally?"
"Ther's six CANDLES gone -- that's what. The rats
could a got the candles, and I reckon they did; I
wonder they don't walk off with the whole place, the
way you're always going to stop their holes and don't
do it; and if they warn't fools they'd sleep in your
hair, Silas -- YOU'D never find it out; but you can't lay
the SPOON on the rats, and that I know."
"Well, Sally, I'm in fault, and I acknowledge it;
I've been remiss; but I won't let to-morrow go by
without stopping up them holes."
"Oh, I wouldn't hurry; next year 'll do. Matilda
Angelina Araminta PHELPS!"
Whack comes the thimble, and the child snatches
her claws out of the sugar-bowl without fooling around
any. Just then the nigger woman steps on to the
passage, and says:
"Missus, dey's a sheet gone."
"A SHEET gone! Well, for the land's sake!"
"I'll stop up them holes to-day," says Uncle Silas,
looking sorrowful.
"Oh, DO shet up! -- s'pose the rats took the SHEET?
WHERE'S it gone, Lize?"
"Clah to goodness I hain't no notion, Miss' Sally.
She wuz on de clo'sline yistiddy, but she done gone:
she ain' dah no mo' now."
"I reckon the world IS coming to an end. I NEVER
see the beat of it in all my born days. A shirt, and a
sheet, and a spoon, and six can --"
"Missus," comes a young yaller wench, "dey's a
brass cannelstick miss'n."
"Cler out from here, you hussy, er I'll take a skillet
to ye!"
Well, she was just a-biling. I begun to lay for a
chance; I reckoned I would sneak out and go for the
woods till the weather moderated. She kept a-raging
right along, running her insurrection all by herself,
and everybody else mighty meek and quiet; and at
last Uncle Silas, looking kind of foolish, fishes up that
spoon out of his pocket. She stopped, with her mouth
open and her hands up; and as for me, I wished I was
in Jeruslem or somewheres. But not long, because
she says:
"It's JUST as I expected. So you had it in your
pocket all the time; and like as not you've got the
other things there, too. How'd it get there?"
"I reely don't know, Sally," he says, kind of
apologizing, "or you know I would tell. I was astudying
over my text in Acts Seventeen before breakfast,
and I reckon I put it in there, not noticing,
meaning to put my Testament in, and it must be so,
because my Testament ain't in; but I'll go and see;
and if the Testament is where I had it, I'll know I
didn't put it in, and that will show that I laid the
Testament down and took up the spoon, and --"
"Oh, for the land's sake! Give a body a rest!
Go 'long now, the whole kit and biling of ye; and
don't come nigh me again till I've got back my peace
of mind."
I'D a heard her if she'd a said it to herself, let alone
speaking it out; and I'd a got up and obeyed her if
I'd a been dead. As we was passing through the
setting-room the old man he took up his hat, and the
shingle-nail fell out on the floor, and he just merely
picked it up and laid it on the mantel-shelf, and never
said nothing, and went out. Tom see him do it, and
remembered about the spoon, and says:
"Well, it ain't no use to send things by HIM no
more, he ain't reliable." Then he says: "But he
done us a good turn with the spoon, anyway, without
knowing it, and so we'll go and do him one without
HIM knowing it -- stop up his rat-holes."
There was a noble good lot of them down cellar, and
it took us a whole hour, but we done the job tight and
good and shipshape. Then we heard steps on the
stairs, and blowed out our light and hid; and here
comes the old man, with a candle in one hand and a
bundle of stuff in t'other, looking as absent-minded as
year before last. He went a mooning around, first to
one rat-hole and then another, till he'd been to them
all. Then he stood about five minutes, picking tallowdrip
off of his candle and thinking. Then he turns off
slow and dreamy towards the stairs, saying:
"Well, for the life of me I can't remember when I
done it. I could show her now that I warn't to blame
on account of the rats. But never mind -- let it go. I
reckon it wouldn't do no good."
And so he went on a-mumbling up stairs, and then
we left. He was a mighty nice old man. And
always is.
Tom was a good deal bothered about what to do for
a spoon, but he said we'd got to have it; so he took a
think. When he had ciphered it out he told me how
we was to do; then we went and waited around the
spoon-basket till we see Aunt Sally coming, and then
Tom went to counting the spoons and laying them out
to one side, and I slid one of them up my sleeve, and
Tom says:
"Why, Aunt Sally, there ain't but nine spoons
She says:
"Go 'long to your play, and don't bother me. I
know better, I counted 'm myself."
"Well, I've counted them twice, Aunty, and I can't
make but nine."
She looked out of all patience, but of course she
come to count -- anybody would.
"I declare to gracious ther' AIN'T but nine!" she
says. "Why, what in the world -- plague TAKE the
things, I'll count 'm again."
So I slipped back the one I had, and when she got
done counting, she says:
"Hang the troublesome rubbage, ther's TEN now!"
and she looked huffy and bothered both. But Tom
"Why, Aunty, I don't think there's ten."
"You numskull, didn't you see me COUNT 'm?"
"I know, but --"
"Well, I'll count 'm AGAIN."
So I smouched one, and they come out nine, same
as the other time. Well, she WAS in a tearing way --
just a-trembling all over, she was so mad. But she
counted and counted till she got that addled she'd start
to count in the basket for a spoon sometimes; and so,
three times they come out right, and three times they
come out wrong. Then she grabbed up the basket
and slammed it across the house and knocked the cat
galley-west; and she said cle'r out and let her have
some peace, and if we come bothering around her
again betwixt that and dinner she'd skin us. So we
had the odd spoon, and dropped it in her apron-pocket
whilst she was a-giving us our sailing orders, and Jim
got it all right, along with her shingle nail, before
noon. We was very well satisfied with this business,
and Tom allowed it was worth twice the trouble it
took, because he said NOW she couldn't ever count
them spoons twice alike again to save her life; and
wouldn't believe she'd counted them right if she DID;
and said that after she'd about counted her head off
for the next three days he judged she'd give it up and
offer to kill anybody that wanted her to ever count
them any more.
So we put the sheet back on the line that night, and
stole one out of her closet; and kept on putting it
back and stealing it again for a couple of days till she
didn't know how many sheets she had any more, and
she didn't CARE, and warn't a-going to bullyrag the rest
of her soul out about it, and wouldn't count them
again not to save her life; she druther die first.
So we was all right now, as to the shirt and the
sheet and the spoon and the candles, by the help of
the calf and the rats and the mixed-up counting; and
as to the candlestick, it warn't no consequence, it
would blow over by and by.
But that pie was a job; we had no end of trouble
with that pie. We fixed it up away down in the
woods, and cooked it there; and we got it done at
last, and very satisfactory, too; but not all in one
day; and we had to use up three wash-pans full of
flour before we got through, and we got burnt pretty
much all over, in places, and eyes put out with the
smoke; because, you see, we didn't want nothing but
a crust, and we couldn't prop it up right, and she
would always cave in. But of course we thought of
the right way at last -- which was to cook the ladder,
too, in the pie. So then we laid in with Jim the
second night, and tore up the sheet all in little strings
and twisted them together, and long before daylight we
had a lovely rope that you could a hung a person with.
We let on it took nine months to make it.
And in the forenoon we took it down to the woods,
but it wouldn't go into the pie. Being made of a
whole sheet, that way, there was rope enough for forty
pies if we'd a wanted them, and plenty left over for
soup, or sausage, or anything you choose. We could
a had a whole dinner.
But we didn't need it. All we needed was just
enough for the pie, and so we throwed the rest away.
We didn't cook none of the pies in the wash-pan --
afraid the solder would melt; but Uncle Silas he had a
noble brass warming-pan which he thought considerable
of, because it belonged to one of his ancesters
with a long wooden handle that come over from England
with William the Conqueror in the Mayflower or
one of them early ships and was hid away up garret
with a lot of other old pots and things that was
valuable, not on account of being any account, because
they warn't, but on account of them being
relicts, you know, and we snaked her out, private, and
took her down there, but she failed on the first pies,
because we didn't know how, but she come up smiling
on the last one. We took and lined her with dough,
and set her in the coals, and loaded her up with rag
rope, and put on a dough roof, and shut down the lid,
and put hot embers on top, and stood off five foot,
with the long handle, cool and comfortable, and in
fifteen minutes she turned out a pie that was a satisfaction
to look at. But the person that et it would want
to fetch a couple of kags of toothpicks along, for if
that rope ladder wouldn't cramp him down to business
I don't know nothing what I'm talking about, and lay
him in enough stomach-ache to last him till next time,
Nat didn't look when we put the witch pie in Jim's
pan; and we put the three tin plates in the bottom of
the pan under the vittles; and so Jim got everything
all right, and as soon as he was by himself he busted
into the pie and hid the rope ladder inside of his straw
tick, and scratched some marks on a tin plate and
throwed it out of the window-hole.
MAKING them pens was a distressid tough job,
and so was the saw; and Jim allowed the inscription
was going to be the toughest of all. That's
the one which the prisoner has to scrabble on the wall.
But he had to have it; Tom said he'd GOT to; there
warn't no case of a state prisoner not scrabbling his
inscription to leave behind, and his coat of arms.
"Look at Lady Jane Grey," he says; "look at
Gilford Dudley; look at old Northumberland! Why,
Huck, s'pose it IS considerble trouble? -- what you
going to do? -- how you going to get around it?
Jim's GOT to do his inscription and coat of arms. They
all do."
Jim says:
"Why, Mars Tom, I hain't got no coat o' arm; I
hain't got nuffn but dish yer ole shirt, en you knows
I got to keep de journal on dat."
"Oh, you don't understand, Jim; a coat of arms is
very different."
"Well," I says, "Jim's right, anyway, when he
says he ain't got no coat of arms, because he hain't."
"I reckon I knowed that," Tom says, "but you
bet he'll have one before he goes out of this -- because
he's going out RIGHT, and there ain't going to be no
flaws in his record."
So whilst me and Jim filed away at the pens on a
brickbat apiece, Jim a-making his'n out of the brass
and I making mine out of the spoon, Tom set to work
to think out the coat of arms. By and by he said he'd
struck so many good ones he didn't hardly know
which to take, but there was one which he reckoned
he'd decide on. He says:
"On the scutcheon we'll have a bend OR in the
dexter base, a saltire MURREY in the fess, with a dog,
couchant, for common charge, and under his foot a
chain embattled, for slavery, with a chevron VERT in a
chief engrailed, and three invected lines on a field
AZURE, with the nombril points rampant on a dancette
indented; crest, a runaway nigger, SABLE, with his
bundle over his shoulder on a bar sinister; and a
couple of gules for supporters, which is you and me;
motto, MAGGIORE FRETTA, MINORE OTTO. Got it out of a
book -- means the more haste the less speed."
"Geewhillikins," I says, "but what does the rest of
it mean?"
"We ain't got no time to bother over that," he
says; "we got to dig in like all git-out."
"Well, anyway," I says, "what's SOME of it?
What's a fess?"
"A fess -- a fess is -- YOU don't need to know what
a fess is. I'll show him how to make it when he gets
to it."
"Shucks, Tom," I says, "I think you might tell a
person. What's a bar sinister?"
"Oh, I don't know. But he's got to have it. All
the nobility does."
That was just his way. If it didn't suit him to explain
a thing to you, he wouldn't do it. You might
pump at him a week, it wouldn't make no difference.
He'd got all that coat of arms business fixed, so
now he started in to finish up the rest of that part of
the work, which was to plan out a mournful inscription
-- said Jim got to have one, like they all done.
He made up a lot, and wrote them out on a paper, and
read them off, so:
1. Here a captive heart busted.
2. Here a poor prisoner, forsook by the world
and friends, fretted his sorrowful life.
3. Here a lonely heart broke, and a worn spirit
went to its rest, after thirty-seven years
of solitary captivity.
4. Here, homeless and friendless, after
thirty-seven years of bitter captivity,
perished a noble stranger, natural son of
Louis XIV.
Tom's voice trembled whilst he was reading them,
and he most broke down. When he got done he
couldn't no way make up his mind which one for Jim
to scrabble on to the wall, they was all so good; but
at last he allowed he would let him scrabble them all
on. Jim said it would take him a year to scrabble
such a lot of truck on to the logs with a nail, and he
didn't know how to make letters, besides; but Tom
said he would block them out for him, and then he
wouldn't have nothing to do but just follow the lines.
Then pretty soon he says:
"Come to think, the logs ain't a-going to do; they
don't have log walls in a dungeon: we got to dig the
inscriptions into a rock. We'll fetch a rock."
Jim said the rock was worse than the logs; he said
it would take him such a pison long time to dig them
into a rock he wouldn't ever get out. But Tom said
he would let me help him do it. Then he took a look
to see how me and Jim was getting along with the
pens. It was most pesky tedious hard work and slow,
and didn't give my hands no show to get well of the
sores, and we didn't seem to make no headway, hardly;
so Tom says:
"I know how to fix it. We got to have a rock for
the coat of arms and mournful inscriptions, and we can
kill two birds with that same rock. There's a gaudy
big grindstone down at the mill, and we'll smouch it,
and carve the things on it, and file out the pens and
the saw on it, too."
It warn't no slouch of an idea; and it warn't no
slouch of a grindstone nuther; but we allowed we'd
tackle it. It warn't quite midnight yet, so we cleared
out for the mill, leaving Jim at work. We smouched
the grindstone, and set out to roll her home, but it
was a most nation tough job. Sometimes, do what we
could, we couldn't keep her from falling over, and she
come mighty near mashing us every time. Tom said
she was going to get one of us, sure, before we got
through. We got her half way; and then we was
plumb played out, and most drownded with sweat.
We see it warn't no use; we got to go and fetch Jim
So he raised up his bed and slid the chain off of the
bed-leg, and wrapt it round and round his neck, and
we crawled out through our hole and down there, and
Jim and me laid into that grindstone and walked
her along like nothing; and Tom superintended.
He could out-superintend any boy I ever see. He
knowed how to do everything.
Our hole was pretty big, but it warn't big enough to
get the grindstone through; but Jim he took the pick
and soon made it big enough. Then Tom marked out
them things on it with the nail, and set Jim to work on
them, with the nail for a chisel and an iron bolt from
the rubbage in the lean-to for a hammer, and told him
to work till the rest of his candle quit on him, and then
he could go to bed, and hide the grindstone under his
straw tick and sleep on it. Then we helped him fix
his chain back on the bed-leg, and was ready for bed
ourselves. But Tom thought of something, and says:
"You got any spiders in here, Jim?"
"No, sah, thanks to goodness I hain't, Mars Tom."
"All right, we'll get you some."
"But bless you, honey, I doan' WANT none. I's
afeard un um. I jis' 's soon have rattlesnakes aroun'."
Tom thought a minute or two, and says:
"It's a good idea. And I reckon it's been done.
It MUST a been done; it stands to reason. Yes, it's a
prime good idea. Where could you keep it?"
"Keep what, Mars Tom?"
"Why, a rattlesnake."
"De goodness gracious alive, Mars Tom! Why, if
dey was a rattlesnake to come in heah I'd take en bust
right out thoo dat log wall, I would, wid my head."
Why, Jim, you wouldn't be afraid of it after a
little. You could tame it."
"TAME it!"
"Yes -- easy enough. Every animal is grateful for
kindness and petting, and they wouldn't THINK of hurting
a person that pets them. Any book will tell you
that. You try -- that's all I ask; just try for two or
three days. Why, you can get him so in a little while
that he'll love you; and sleep with you; and won't
stay away from you a minute; and will let you wrap
him round your neck and put his head in your mouth."
"PLEASE, Mars Tom -- DOAN' talk so! I can't STAN'
it! He'd LET me shove his head in my mouf -- fer a
favor, hain't it? I lay he'd wait a pow'ful long time
'fo' I AST him. En mo' en dat, I doan' WANT him to
sleep wid me."
"Jim, don't act so foolish. A prisoner's GOT to
have some kind of a dumb pet, and if a rattlesnake
hain't ever been tried, why, there's more glory to be
gained in your being the first to ever try it than any
other way you could ever think of to save your life."
"Why, Mars Tom, I doan' WANT no sich glory.
Snake take 'n bite Jim's chin off, den WHAH is de
glory? No, sah, I doan' want no sich doin's."
"Blame it, can't you TRY? I only WANT you to try
-- you needn't keep it up if it don't work."
"But de trouble all DONE ef de snake bite me while
I's a tryin' him. Mars Tom, I's willin' to tackle mos'
anything 'at ain't onreasonable, but ef you en Huck
fetches a rattlesnake in heah for me to tame, I's
gwyne to LEAVE, dat's SHORE."
"Well, then, let it go, let it go, if you're so bullheaded
about it. We can get you some garter-snakes,
and you can tie some buttons on their tails, and let on
they're rattlesnakes, and I reckon that 'll have to do."
"I k'n stan' DEM, Mars Tom, but blame' 'f I
couldn' get along widout um, I tell you dat. I never
knowed b'fo' 't was so much bother and trouble to be
a prisoner."
"Well, it ALWAYS is when it's done right. You got
any rats around here?"
"No, sah, I hain't seed none."
"Well, we'll get you some rats."
"Why, Mars Tom, I doan' WANT no rats. Dey's
de dadblamedest creturs to 'sturb a body, en rustle
roun' over 'im, en bite his feet, when he's tryin' to
sleep, I ever see. No, sah, gimme g'yarter-snakes, 'f
I's got to have 'm, but doan' gimme no rats; I hain'
got no use f'r um, skasely."
"But, Jim, you GOT to have 'em -- they all do. So
don't make no more fuss about it. Prisoners ain't
ever without rats. There ain't no instance of it. And
they train them, and pet them, and learn them tricks,
and they get to be as sociable as flies. But you got to
play music to them. You got anything to play music
"I ain' got nuffn but a coase comb en a piece o'
paper, en a juice-harp; but I reck'n dey wouldn' take
no stock in a juice-harp."
"Yes they would. THEY don't care what kind of
music 'tis. A jews-harp's plenty good enough for a
rat. All animals like music -- in a prison they dote
on it. Specially, painful music; and you can't get no
other kind out of a jews-harp. It always interests
them; they come out to see what's the matter with
you. Yes, you're all right; you're fixed very well.
You want to set on your bed nights before you go to
sleep, and early in the mornings, and play your jewsharp;
play 'The Last Link is Broken' -- that's the
thing that 'll scoop a rat quicker 'n anything else; and
when you've played about two minutes you'll see all
the rats, and the snakes, and spiders, and things begin
to feel worried about you, and come. And they'll
just fairly swarm over you, and have a noble good
"Yes, DEY will, I reck'n, Mars Tom, but what kine
er time is JIM havin'? Blest if I kin see de pint. But
I'll do it ef I got to. I reck'n I better keep de animals
satisfied, en not have no trouble in de house."
Tom waited to think it over, and see if there wasn't
nothing else; and pretty soon he says:
"Oh, there's one thing I forgot. Could you raise
a flower here, do you reckon?"
"I doan know but maybe I could, Mars Tom; but
it's tolable dark in heah, en I ain' got no use f'r no
flower, nohow, en she'd be a pow'ful sight o' trouble."
"Well, you try it, anyway. Some other prisoners
has done it."
"One er dem big cat-tail-lookin' mullen-stalks would
grow in heah, Mars Tom, I reck'n, but she wouldn't
be wuth half de trouble she'd coss."
"Don't you believe it. We'll fetch you a little one
and you plant it in the corner over there, and raise it.
And don't call it mullen, call it Pitchiola -- that's its
right name when it's in a prison. And you want to
water it with your tears."
"Why, I got plenty spring water, Mars Tom."
"You don't WANT spring water; you want to water
it with your tears. It's the way they always do."
"Why, Mars Tom, I lay I kin raise one er dem
mullen-stalks twyste wid spring water whiles another
man's a START'N one wid tears."
"That ain't the idea. You GOT to do it with tears."
"She'll die on my han's, Mars Tom, she sholy
will; kase I doan' skasely ever cry."
So Tom was stumped. But he studied it over, and
then said Jim would have to worry along the best he
could with an onion. He promised he would go to the
nigger cabins and drop one, private, in Jim's coffeepot,
in the morning. Jim said he would "jis' 's soon
have tobacker in his coffee;" and found so much fault
with it, and with the work and bother of raising the
mullen, and jews-harping the rats, and petting and
flattering up the snakes and spiders and things, on top
of all the other work he had to do on pens, and inscriptions,
and journals, and things, which made it
more trouble and worry and responsibility to be a
prisoner than anything he ever undertook, that Tom
most lost all patience with him; and said he was just
loadened down with more gaudier chances than a
prisoner ever had in the world to make a name for
himself, and yet he didn't know enough to appreciate
them, and they was just about wasted on him. So
Jim he was sorry, and said he wouldn't behave so no
more, and then me and Tom shoved for bed.
IN the morning we went up to the village and bought
a wire rat-trap and fetched it down, and unstopped
the best rat-hole, and in about an hour we had fifteen
of the bulliest kind of ones; and then we took it and
put it in a safe place under Aunt Sally's bed. But
while we was gone for spiders little Thomas Franklin
Benjamin Jefferson Elexander Phelps found it there,
and opened the door of it to see if the rats would come
out, and they did; and Aunt Sally she come in, and
when we got back she was a-standing on top of the bed
raising Cain, and the rats was doing what they could to
keep off the dull times for her. So she took and
dusted us both with the hickry, and we was as much
as two hours catching another fifteen or sixteen, drat
that meddlesome cub, and they warn't the likeliest,
nuther, because the first haul was the pick of the flock.
I never see a likelier lot of rats than what that first
haul was.
We got a splendid stock of sorted spiders, and bugs,
and frogs, and caterpillars, and one thing or another;
and we like to got a hornet's nest, but we didn't. The
family was at home. We didn't give it right up, but
stayed with them as long as we could; because we
allowed we'd tire them out or they'd got to tire us
out, and they done it. Then we got allycumpain and
rubbed on the places, and was pretty near all right
again, but couldn't set down convenient. And so we
went for the snakes, and grabbed a couple of dozen
garters and house-snakes, and put them in a bag, and
put it in our room, and by that time it was suppertime,
and a rattling good honest day's work: and
hungry? -- oh, no, I reckon not! And there warn't a
blessed snake up there when we went back -- we didn't
half tie the sack, and they worked out somehow, and
left. But it didn't matter much, because they was
still on the premises somewheres. So we judged we
could get some of them again. No, there warn't no
real scarcity of snakes about the house for a considerable
spell. You'd see them dripping from the rafters
and places every now and then; and they generly
landed in your plate, or down the back of your neck,
and most of the time where you didn't want them.
Well, they was handsome and striped, and there warn't
no harm in a million of them; but that never made no
difference to Aunt Sally; she despised snakes, be the
breed what they might, and she couldn't stand them
no way you could fix it; and every time one of them
flopped down on her, it didn't make no difference what
she was doing, she would just lay that work down and
light out. I never see such a woman. And you could
hear her whoop to Jericho. You couldn't get her to
take a-holt of one of them with the tongs. And if she
turned over and found one in bed she would scramble
out and lift a howl that you would think the house was
afire. She disturbed the old man so that he said he
could most wish there hadn't ever been no snakes
created. Why, after every last snake had been gone
clear out of the house for as much as a week Aunt
Sally warn't over it yet; she warn't near over it; when
she was setting thinking about something you could
touch her on the back of her neck with a feather and
she would jump right out of her stockings. It was
very curious. But Tom said all women was just so.
He said they was made that way for some reason or
We got a licking every time one of our snakes come
in her way, and she allowed these lickings warn't nothing
to what she would do if we ever loaded up the
place again with them. I didn't mind the lickings,
because they didn't amount to nothing; but I minded
the trouble we had to lay in another lot. But we got
them laid in, and all the other things; and you never
see a cabin as blithesome as Jim's was when they'd all
swarm out for music and go for him. Jim didn't like
the spiders, and the spiders didn't like Jim; and so
they'd lay for him, and make it mighty warm for him.
And he said that between the rats and the snakes and
the grindstone there warn't no room in bed for him,
skasely; and when there was, a body couldn't sleep, it
was so lively, and it was always lively, he said, because
THEY never all slept at one time, but took turn about,
so when the snakes was asleep the rats was on deck,
and when the rats turned in the snakes come on watch,
so he always had one gang under him, in his way, and
t'other gang having a circus over him, and if he got
up to hunt a new place the spiders would take a chance
at him as he crossed over. He said if he ever got out
this time he wouldn't ever be a prisoner again, not for
a salary.
Well, by the end of three weeks everything was in
pretty good shape. The shirt was sent in early, in a
pie, and every time a rat bit Jim he would get up and
write a little in his journal whilst the ink was fresh; the
pens was made, the inscriptions and so on was all
carved on the grindstone; the bed-leg was sawed in
two, and we had et up the sawdust, and it give us a
most amazing stomach-ache. We reckoned we was all
going to die, but didn't. It was the most undigestible
sawdust I ever see; and Tom said the same. But as I
was saying, we'd got all the work done now, at last;
and we was all pretty much fagged out, too, but mainly
Jim. The old man had wrote a couple of times to the
plantation below Orleans to come and get their runaway
nigger, but hadn't got no answer, because there
warn't no such plantation; so he allowed he would advertise
Jim in the St. Louis and New Orleans papers;
and when he mentioned the St. Louis ones it give me
the cold shivers, and I see we hadn't no time to lose.
So Tom said, now for the nonnamous letters.
"What's them?" I says.
"Warnings to the people that something is up.
Sometimes it's done one way, sometimes another.
But there's always somebody spying around that gives
notice to the governor of the castle. When Louis
XVI. was going to light out of the Tooleries a servantgirl
done it. It's a very good way, and so is the
nonnamous letters. We'll use them both. And it's
usual for the prisoner's mother to change clothes with
him, and she stays in, and he slides out in her clothes.
We'll do that, too."
"But looky here, Tom, what do we want to WARN
anybody for that something's up? Let them find it
out for themselves -- it's their lookout."
"Yes, I know; but you can't depend on them.
It's the way they've acted from the very start -- left
us to do EVERYTHING. They're so confiding and mulletheaded
they don't take notice of nothing at all. So if
we don't GIVE them notice there won't be nobody nor
nothing to interfere with us, and so after all our hard
work and trouble this escape 'll go off perfectly flat;
won't amount to nothing -- won't be nothing TO it."
"Well, as for me, Tom, that's the way I'd like."
"Shucks!" he says, and looked disgusted. So I
"But I ain't going to make no complaint. Any
way that suits you suits me. What you going to do
about the servant-girl?"
"You'll be her. You slide in, in the middle of the
night, and hook that yaller girl's frock."
"Why, Tom, that 'll make trouble next morning;
because, of course, she prob'bly hain't got any but
that one."
"I know; but you don't want it but fifteen minutes,
to carry the nonnamous letter and shove it under the
front door."
"All right, then, I'll do it; but I could carry it just
as handy in my own togs."
"You wouldn't look like a servant-girl THEN, would
"No, but there won't be nobody to see what I look
like, ANYWAY."
"That ain't got nothing to do with it. The thing
for us to do is just to do our DUTY, and not worry
about whether anybody SEES us do it or not. Hain't
you got no principle at all?"
"All right, I ain't saying nothing; I'm the servantgirl.
Who's Jim's mother?"
"I'm his mother. I'll hook a gown from Aunt
"Well, then, you'll have to stay in the cabin when
me and Jim leaves."
"Not much. I'll stuff Jim's clothes full of straw
and lay it on his bed to represent his mother in disguise,
and Jim 'll take the nigger woman's gown off of
me and wear it, and we'll all evade together. When a
prisoner of style escapes it's called an evasion. It's
always called so when a king escapes, f'rinstance.
And the same with a king's son; it don't make no difference
whether he's a natural one or an unnatural one."
So Tom he wrote the nonnamous letter, and I
smouched the yaller wench's frock that night, and put
it on, and shoved it under the front door, the way Tom
told me to. It said:
Beware. Trouble is brewing. Keep a sharp lookout.
Next night we stuck a picture, which Tom drawed
in blood, of a skull and crossbones on the front door;
and next night another one of a coffin on the back
door. I never see a family in such a sweat. They
couldn't a been worse scared if the place had a been
full of ghosts laying for them behind everything and
under the beds and shivering through the air. If a
door banged, Aunt Sally she jumped and said
"ouch!" if anything fell, she jumped and said
"ouch!" if you happened to touch her, when she
warn't noticing, she done the same; she couldn't face
noway and be satisfied, because she allowed there was
something behind her every time -- so she was always
a-whirling around sudden, and saying "ouch," and
before she'd got two-thirds around she'd whirl back
again, and say it again; and she was afraid to go to bed,
but she dasn't set up. So the thing was working
very well, Tom said; he said he never see a thing
work more satisfactory. He said it showed it was
done right.
So he said, now for the grand bulge! So the very
next morning at the streak of dawn we got another
letter ready, and was wondering what we better do with
it, because we heard them say at supper they was
going to have a nigger on watch at both doors all
night. Tom he went down the lightning-rod to spy
around; and the nigger at the back door was asleep,
and he stuck it in the back of his neck and come back.
This letter said:
Don't betray me, I wish to be your friend. There
is a desprate gang of cut-throats from over in the
Indian Territory going to steal your runaway
nigger to-night, and they have been trying to scare
you so as you will stay in the house and not bother
them. I am one of the gang, but have got religgion
and wish to quit it and lead an honest life again,
and will betray the helish design. They will sneak
down from northards, along the fence, at midnight
exact, with a false key, and go in the nigger's
cabin to get him. I am to be off a piece and blow
a tin horn if I see any danger; but stead of that I
will BA like a sheep soon as they get in and not
blow at all; then whilst they are getting his chains
loose, you slip there and lock them in, and can
kill them at your leasure. Don't do anything but
just the way I am telling you; if you do they will
suspicion something and raise whoop-jamboreehoo. I
do not wish any reward but to know I have done the
right thing.
WE was feeling pretty good after breakfast, and
took my canoe and went over the river a-fishing,
with a lunch, and had a good time, and took a look at
the raft and found her all right, and got home late to
supper, and found them in such a sweat and worry
they didn't know which end they was standing on, and
made us go right off to bed the minute we was done
supper, and wouldn't tell us what the trouble was, and
never let on a word about the new letter, but didn't
need to, because we knowed as much about it as
anybody did, and as soon as we was half up stairs and
her back was turned we slid for the cellar cubboard
and loaded up a good lunch and took it up to our
room and went to bed, and got up about half-past
eleven, and Tom put on Aunt Sally's dress that he
stole and was going to start with the lunch, but says:
"Where's the butter?"
"I laid out a hunk of it," I says, "on a piece of a
"Well, you LEFT it laid out, then -- it ain't here."
"We can get along without it," I says.
"We can get along WITH it, too," he says; "just
you slide down cellar and fetch it. And then mosey
right down the lightning-rod and come along. I'll go
and stuff the straw into Jim's clothes to represent his
mother in disguise, and be ready to BA like a sheep
and shove soon as you get there."
So out he went, and down cellar went I. The hunk
of butter, big as a person's fist, was where I had left
it, so I took up the slab of corn-pone with it on, and
blowed out my light, and started up stairs very
stealthy, and got up to the main floor all right, but
here comes Aunt Sally with a candle, and I clapped
the truck in my hat, and clapped my hat on my head,
and the next second she see me; and she says:
"You been down cellar?"
"What you been doing down there?"
"Well, then, what possessed you to go down there
this time of night?"
"I don't know 'm."
"You don't KNOW? Don't answer me that way.
Tom, I want to know what you been DOING down
"I hain't been doing a single thing, Aunt Sally, I
hope to gracious if I have."
I reckoned she'd let me go now, and as a generl
thing she would; but I s'pose there was so many
strange things going on she was just in a sweat about
every little thing that warn't yard-stick straight; so she
says, very decided:
"You just march into that setting-room and stay
there till I come. You been up to something you no
business to, and I lay I'll find out what it is before I'M
done with you."
So she went away as I opened the door and walked
into the setting-room. My, but there was a crowd
there! Fifteen farmers, and every one of them had a
gun. I was most powerful sick, and slunk to a chair
and set down. They was setting around, some of them
talking a little, in a low voice, and all of them fidgety
and uneasy, but trying to look like they warn't; but I
knowed they was, because they was always taking off
their hats, and putting them on, and scratching their
heads, and changing their seats, and fumbling with
their buttons. I warn't easy myself, but I didn't take
my hat off, all the same.
I did wish Aunt Sally would come, and get done
with me, and lick me, if she wanted to, and let me get
away and tell Tom how we'd overdone this thing, and
what a thundering hornet's-nest we'd got ourselves
into, so we could stop fooling around straight off, and
clear out with Jim before these rips got out of patience
and come for us.
At last she come and begun to ask me questions,
but I COULDN'T answer them straight, I didn't know
which end of me was up; because these men was in
such a fidget now that some was wanting to start right
NOW and lay for them desperadoes, and saying it warn't
but a few minutes to midnight; and others was trying
to get them to hold on and wait for the sheep-signal;
and here was Aunty pegging away at the questions,
and me a-shaking all over and ready to sink down in
my tracks I was that scared; and the place getting
hotter and hotter, and the butter beginning to melt and
run down my neck and behind my ears; and pretty
soon, when one of them says, "I'M for going and
getting in the cabin FIRST and right NOW, and catching
them when they come," I most dropped; and a streak
of butter come a-trickling down my forehead, and
Aunt Sally she see it, and turns white as a sheet, and
"For the land's sake, what IS the matter with the
child? He's got the brain-fever as shore as you're
born, and they're oozing out!"
And everybody runs to see, and she snatches off my
hat, and out comes the bread and what was left of the
butter, and she grabbed me, and hugged me, and
"Oh, what a turn you did give me! and how glad
and grateful I am it ain't no worse; for luck's against
us, and it never rains but it pours, and when I see that
truck I thought we'd lost you, for I knowed by the
color and all it was just like your brains would be if --
Dear, dear, whyd'nt you TELL me that was what you'd
been down there for, I wouldn't a cared. Now cler
out to bed, and don't lemme see no more of you till
I was up stairs in a second, and down the lightningrod
in another one, and shinning through the dark for
the lean-to. I couldn't hardly get my words out, I
was so anxious; but I told Tom as quick as I could
we must jump for it now, and not a minute to lose --
the house full of men, yonder, with guns!
His eyes just blazed; and he says:
"No! -- is that so? AIN'T it bully! Why, Huck,
if it was to do over again, I bet I could fetch two hundred!
If we could put it off till --"
"Hurry! HURRY!" I says. "Where's Jim?"
"Right at your elbow; if you reach out your arm
you can touch him. He's dressed, and everything's
ready. Now we'll slide out and give the sheepsignal."
But then we heard the tramp of men coming to the
door, and heard them begin to fumble with the padlock,
and heard a man say:
"I TOLD you we'd be too soon; they haven't come
-- the door is locked. Here, I'll lock some of you
into the cabin, and you lay for 'em in the dark and kill
'em when they come; and the rest scatter around a
piece, and listen if you can hear 'em coming."
So in they come, but couldn't see us in the dark, and
most trod on us whilst we was hustling to get under
the bed. But we got under all right, and out through
the hole, swift but soft -- Jim first, me next, and Tom
last, which was according to Tom's orders. Now we
was in the lean-to, and heard trampings close by outside.
So we crept to the door, and Tom stopped us
there and put his eye to the crack, but couldn't make
out nothing, it was so dark; and whispered and said
he would listen for the steps to get further, and when
he nudged us Jim must glide out first, and him last.
So he set his ear to the crack and listened, and
listened, and listened, and the steps a-scraping around
out there all the time; and at last he nudged us, and
we slid out, and stooped down, not breathing, and not
making the least noise, and slipped stealthy towards the
fence in Injun file, and got to it all right, and me and
Jim over it; but Tom's britches catched fast on a splinter
on the top rail, and then he hear the steps coming, so he
had to pull loose, which snapped the splinter and made
a noise; and as he dropped in our tracks and started
somebody sings out:
"Who's that? Answer, or I'll shoot!"
But we didn't answer; we just unfurled our heels
and shoved. Then there was a rush, and a BANG, BANG,
BANG! and the bullets fairly whizzed around us! We
heard them sing out:
"Here they are! They've broke for the river!
After 'em, boys, and turn loose the dogs!"
So here they come, full tilt. We could hear them
because they wore boots and yelled, but we didn't wear
no boots and didn't yell. We was in the path to the
mill; and when they got pretty close on to us we
dodged into the bush and let them go by, and then
dropped in behind them. They'd had all the dogs
shut up, so they wouldn't scare off the robbers; but
by this time somebody had let them loose, and here
they come, making powwow enough for a million; but
they was our dogs; so we stopped in our tracks till
they catched up; and when they see it warn't nobody
but us, and no excitement to offer them, they only just
said howdy, and tore right ahead towards the shouting
and clattering; and then we up-steam again, and
whizzed along after them till we was nearly to the
mill, and then struck up through the bush to where
my canoe was tied, and hopped in and pulled for dear
life towards the middle of the river, but didn't make
no more noise than we was obleeged to. Then we
struck out, easy and comfortable, for the island where
my raft was; and we could hear them yelling and
barking at each other all up and down the bank, till we
was so far away the sounds got dim and died out.
And when we stepped on to the raft I says:
"NOW, old Jim, you're a free man again, and I bet
you won't ever be a slave no more."
"En a mighty good job it wuz, too, Huck. It 'uz
planned beautiful, en it 'uz done beautiful; en dey
ain't NOBODY kin git up a plan dat's mo' mixed-up en
splendid den what dat one wuz."
We was all glad as we could be, but Tom was the
gladdest of all because he had a bullet in the calf of
his leg.
When me and Jim heard that we didn't feel so brash
as what we did before. It was hurting him considerable,
and bleeding; so we laid him in the wigwam and
tore up one of the duke's shirts for to bandage him,
but he says:
"Gimme the rags; I can do it myself. Don't stop
now; don't fool around here, and the evasion booming
along so handsome; man the sweeps, and set her
loose! Boys, we done it elegant! -- 'deed we did. I
wish WE'D a had the handling of Louis XVI., there
wouldn't a been no 'Son of Saint Louis, ascend to
heaven!' wrote down in HIS biography; no, sir, we'd
a whooped him over the BORDER -- that's what we'd a
done with HIM -- and done it just as slick as nothing
at all, too. Man the sweeps -- man the sweeps!"
But me and Jim was consulting -- and thinking.
And after we'd thought a minute, I says:
"Say it, Jim."
So he says:
"Well, den, dis is de way it look to me, Huck. Ef
it wuz HIM dat 'uz bein' sot free, en one er de boys
wuz to git shot, would he say, 'Go on en save me,
nemmine 'bout a doctor f'r to save dis one?' Is dat
like Mars Tom Sawyer? Would he say dat? You BET
he wouldn't! WELL, den, is JIM gywne to say it?
No, sah -- I doan' budge a step out'n dis place 'dout
a DOCTOR, not if it's forty year!"
I knowed he was white inside, and I reckoned he'd
say what he did say -- so it was all right now, and I
told Tom I was a-going for a doctor. He raised considerable
row about it, but me and Jim stuck to it and
wouldn't budge; so he was for crawling out and setting
the raft loose himself; but we wouldn't let him.
Then he give us a piece of his mind, but it didn't do
no good.
So when he sees me getting the canoe ready, he
"Well, then, if you re bound to go, I'll tell you the
way to do when you get to the village. Shut the door
and blindfold the doctor tight and fast, and make him
swear to be silent as the grave, and put a purse full of
gold in his hand, and then take and lead him all around
the back alleys and everywheres in the dark, and then
fetch him here in the canoe, in a roundabout way
amongst the islands, and search him and take his chalk
away from him, and don't give it back to him till
you get him back to the village, or else he will chalk
this raft so he can find it again. It's the way they
all do."
So I said I would, and left, and Jim was to hide in
the woods when he see the doctor coming till he was
gone again.
THE doctor was an old man; a very nice, kind-looking
old man when I got him up. I told him
me and my brother was over on Spanish Island hunting
yesterday afternoon, and camped on a piece of a
raft we found, and about midnight he must a kicked his
gun in his dreams, for it went off and shot him in the
leg, and we wanted him to go over there and fix it and
not say nothing about it, nor let anybody know, because
we wanted to come home this evening and surprise
the folks.
"Who is your folks?" he says.
"The Phelpses, down yonder."
"Oh," he says. And after a minute, he says:
"How'd you say he got shot?"
"He had a dream," I says, "and it shot him."
"Singular dream," he says.
So he lit up his lantern, and got his saddle-bags, and
we started. But when he sees the canoe he didn't like
the look of her -- said she was big enough for one, but
didn't look pretty safe for two. I says:
"Oh, you needn't be afeard, sir, she carried the
three of us easy enough."
"What three?"
"Why, me and Sid, and -- and -- and THE GUNS;
that's what I mean."
"Oh," he says.
But he put his foot on the gunnel and rocked her,
and shook his head, and said he reckoned he'd look
around for a bigger one. But they was all locked and
chained; so he took my canoe, and said for me to wait
till he come back, or I could hunt around further, or
maybe I better go down home and get them ready for
the surprise if I wanted to. But I said I didn't; so
I told him just how to find the raft, and then he started.
I struck an idea pretty soon. I says to myself,
spos'n he can't fix that leg just in three shakes of a
sheep's tail, as the saying is? spos'n it takes him three
or four days? What are we going to do? -- lay around
there till he lets the cat out of the bag? No, sir; I
know what I'LL do. I'll wait, and when he comes back
if he says he's got to go any more I'll get down there,
too, if I swim; and we'll take and tie him, and keep
him, and shove out down the river; and when Tom's
done with him we'll give him what it's worth, or all
we got, and then let him get ashore.
So then I crept into a lumber-pile to get some sleep;
and next time I waked up the sun was away up over
my head! I shot out and went for the doctor's
house, but they told me he'd gone away in the night
some time or other, and warn't back yet. Well, thinks
I, that looks powerful bad for Tom, and I'll dig out
for the island right off. So away I shoved, and turned
the corner, and nearly rammed my head into Uncle
Silas's stomach! He says:
"Why, TOM! Where you been all this time, you
"I hain't been nowheres," I says, "only just hunting
for the runaway nigger -- me and Sid."
"Why, where ever did you go?" he says. "Your
aunt's been mighty uneasy."
"She needn't," I says, "because we was all right.
We followed the men and the dogs, but they outrun us,
and we lost them; but we thought we heard them on
the water, so we got a canoe and took out after them
and crossed over, but couldn't find nothing of them;
so we cruised along up-shore till we got kind of tired
and beat out; and tied up the canoe and went to sleep,
and never waked up till about an hour ago; then we
paddled over here to hear the news, and Sid's at the
post-office to see what he can hear, and I'm a-branching
out to get something to eat for us, and then we're
going home."
So then we went to the post-office to get "Sid"; but
just as I suspicioned, he warn't there; so the old man
he got a letter out of the office, and we waited awhile
longer, but Sid didn't come; so the old man said,
come along, let Sid foot it home, or canoe it, when he
got done fooling around -- but we would ride. I
couldn't get him to let me stay and wait for Sid; and
he said there warn't no use in it, and I must come
along, and let Aunt Sally see we was all right.
When we got home Aunt Sally was that glad to see
me she laughed and cried both, and hugged me, and
give me one of them lickings of hern that don't amount
to shucks, and said she'd serve Sid the same when he
And the place was plum full of farmers and farmers'
wives, to dinner; and such another clack a body never
heard. Old Mrs. Hotchkiss was the worst; her tongue
was a-going all the time. She says:
"Well, Sister Phelps, I've ransacked that-air cabin
over, an' I b'lieve the nigger was crazy. I says to
Sister Damrell -- didn't I, Sister Damrell? -- s'I, he's
crazy, s'I -- them's the very words I said. You all
hearn me: he's crazy, s'I; everything shows it, s'I.
Look at that-air grindstone, s'I; want to tell ME't any
cretur 't's in his right mind 's a goin' to scrabble all
them crazy things onto a grindstone, s'I? Here sich 'n'
sich a person busted his heart; 'n' here so 'n' so
pegged along for thirty-seven year, 'n' all that --
natcherl son o' Louis somebody, 'n' sich everlast'n
rubbage. He's plumb crazy, s'I; it's what I says in
the fust place, it's what I says in the middle, 'n' it's
what I says last 'n' all the time -- the nigger's crazy --
crazy 's Nebokoodneezer, s'I."
"An' look at that-air ladder made out'n rags, Sister
Hotchkiss," says old Mrs. Damrell; "what in the
name o' goodness COULD he ever want of --"
"The very words I was a-sayin' no longer ago th'n
this minute to Sister Utterback, 'n' she'll tell you so
herself. Sh-she, look at that-air rag ladder, sh-she;
'n' s'I, yes, LOOK at it, s'I -- what COULD he a-wanted
of it, s'I. Sh-she, Sister Hotchkiss, sh-she --"
"But how in the nation'd they ever GIT that grindstone
IN there, ANYWAY? 'n' who dug that-air HOLE? 'n'
who --"
"My very WORDS, Brer Penrod! I was a-sayin' --
pass that-air sasser o' m'lasses, won't ye? -- I was
a-sayin' to Sister Dunlap, jist this minute, how DID they
git that grindstone in there, s'I. Without HELP, mind
you -- 'thout HELP! THAT'S wher 'tis. Don't tell ME,
s'I; there WUZ help, s'I; 'n' ther' wuz a PLENTY help,
too, s'I; ther's ben a DOZEN a-helpin' that nigger, 'n' I
lay I'd skin every last nigger on this place but I'D find
out who done it, s'I; 'n' moreover, s'I --"
"A DOZEN says you! -- FORTY couldn't a done every
thing that's been done. Look at them case-knife saws
and things, how tedious they've been made; look at
that bed-leg sawed off with 'm, a week's work for six
men; look at that nigger made out'n straw on the bed;
and look at --"
"You may WELL say it, Brer Hightower! It's jist as
I was a-sayin' to Brer Phelps, his own self. S'e, what
do YOU think of it, Sister Hotchkiss, s'e? Think o'
what, Brer Phelps, s'I? Think o' that bed-leg sawed
off that a way, s'e? THINK of it, s'I? I lay it never
sawed ITSELF off, s'I -- somebody SAWED it, s'I; that's
my opinion, take it or leave it, it mayn't be no 'count,
s'I, but sich as 't is, it's my opinion, s'I, 'n' if any
body k'n start a better one, s'I, let him DO it, s'I,
that's all. I says to Sister Dunlap, s'I --"
"Why, dog my cats, they must a ben a house-full o'
niggers in there every night for four weeks to a done
all that work, Sister Phelps. Look at that shirt --
every last inch of it kivered over with secret African
writ'n done with blood! Must a ben a raft uv 'm at it
right along, all the time, amost. Why, I'd give two
dollars to have it read to me; 'n' as for the niggers
that wrote it, I 'low I'd take 'n' lash 'm t'll --"
"People to HELP him, Brother Marples! Well, I
reckon you'd THINK so if you'd a been in this house for
a while back. Why, they've stole everything they
could lay their hands on -- and we a-watching all the
time, mind you. They stole that shirt right off o' the
line! and as for that sheet they made the rag ladder out
of, ther' ain't no telling how many times they DIDN'T
steal that; and flour, and candles, and candlesticks,
and spoons, and the old warming-pan, and most a
thousand things that I disremember now, and my new
calico dress; and me and Silas and my Sid and Tom
on the constant watch day AND night, as I was a-telling
you, and not a one of us could catch hide nor hair nor
sight nor sound of them; and here at the last minute,
lo and behold you, they slides right in under our noses
and fools us, and not only fools US but the Injun Territory
robbers too, and actuly gets AWAY with that nigger
safe and sound, and that with sixteen men and twentytwo
dogs right on their very heels at that very time!
I tell you, it just bangs anything I ever HEARD of.
Why, SPERITS couldn't a done better and been no
smarter. And I reckon they must a BEEN sperits -- because,
YOU know our dogs, and ther' ain't no better;
well, them dogs never even got on the TRACK of 'm
once! You explain THAT to me if you can! -- ANY of
"Well, it does beat --"
"Laws alive, I never --"
"So help me, I wouldn't a be --"
"HOUSE-thieves as well as --"
"Goodnessgracioussakes, I'd a ben afeard to live in
sich a --"
"'Fraid to LIVE! -- why, I was that scared I dasn't
hardly go to bed, or get up, or lay down, or SET down,
Sister Ridgeway. Why, they'd steal the very -- why,
goodness sakes, you can guess what kind of a fluster I
was in by the time midnight come last night. I hope
to gracious if I warn't afraid they'd steal some o' the
family! I was just to that pass I didn't have no reasoning
faculties no more. It looks foolish enough NOW, in
the daytime; but I says to myself, there's my two poor
boys asleep, 'way up stairs in that lonesome room, and
I declare to goodness I was that uneasy 't I crep' up
there and locked 'em in! I DID. And anybody would.
Because, you know, when you get scared that way,
and it keeps running on, and getting worse and worse
all the time, and your wits gets to addling, and you get
to doing all sorts o' wild things, and by and by you
think to yourself, spos'n I was a boy, and was away up
there, and the door ain't locked, and you --" She
stopped, looking kind of wondering, and then she
turned her head around slow, and when her eye lit on
me -- I got up and took a walk.
Says I to myself, I can explain better how we come
to not be in that room this morning if I go out to one
side and study over it a little. So I done it. But I
dasn't go fur, or she'd a sent for me. And when it
was late in the day the people all went, and then I
come in and told her the noise and shooting waked up
me and "Sid," and the door was locked, and we
wanted to see the fun, so we went down the lightningrod,
and both of us got hurt a little, and we didn't never
want to try THAT no more. And then I went on and
told her all what I told Uncle Silas before; and then
she said she'd forgive us, and maybe it was all right
enough anyway, and about what a body might expect
of boys, for all boys was a pretty harum-scarum lot as
fur as she could see; and so, as long as no harm hadn't
come of it, she judged she better put in her time being
grateful we was alive and well and she had us still, stead
of fretting over what was past and done. So then she
kissed me, and patted me on the head, and dropped
into a kind of a brown study; and pretty soon jumps
up, and says:
"Why, lawsamercy, it's most night, and Sid not
come yet! What HAS become of that boy?"
I see my chance; so I skips up and says:
"I'll run right up to town and get him," I says.
"No you won't," she says. "You'll stay right
wher' you are; ONE'S enough to be lost at a time. If
he ain't here to supper, your uncle 'll go."
Well, he warn't there to supper; so right after
supper uncle went.
He come back about ten a little bit uneasy; hadn't
run across Tom's track. Aunt Sally was a good DEAL
uneasy; but Uncle Silas he said there warn't no occasion
to be -- boys will be boys, he said, and you'll see
this one turn up in the morning all sound and right.
So she had to be satisfied. But she said she'd set up
for him a while anyway, and keep a light burning so he
could see it.
And then when I went up to bed she come up with
me and fetched her candle, and tucked me in, and
mothered me so good I felt mean, and like I couldn't
look her in the face; and she set down on the bed and
talked with me a long time, and said what a splendid
boy Sid was, and didn't seem to want to ever stop
talking about him; and kept asking me every now and
then if I reckoned he could a got lost, or hurt, or
maybe drownded, and might be laying at this minute
somewheres suffering or dead, and she not by him to
help him, and so the tears would drip down silent, and
I would tell her that Sid was all right, and would be
home in the morning, sure; and she would squeeze my
hand, or maybe kiss me, and tell me to say it again,
and keep on saying it, because it done her good, and
she was in so much trouble. And when she was going
away she looked down in my eyes so steady and gentle,
and says:
"The door ain't going to be locked, Tom, and
there's the window and the rod; but you'll be good,
WON'T you? And you won't go? For MY sake."
Laws knows I WANTED to go bad enough to see about
Tom, and was all intending to go; but after that I
wouldn't a went, not for kingdoms.
But she was on my mind and Tom was on my mind,
so I slept very restless. And twice I went down the
rod away in the night, and slipped around front, and
see her setting there by her candle in the window with
her eyes towards the road and the tears in them; and
I wished I could do something for her, but I couldn't,
only to swear that I wouldn't never do nothing to
grieve her any more. And the third time I waked up
at dawn, and slid down, and she was there yet, and
her candle was most out, and her old gray head was
resting on her hand, and she was asleep.
THE old man was uptown again before breakfast, but
couldn't get no track of Tom; and both of them
set at the table thinking, and not saying nothing, and
looking mournful, and their coffee getting cold, and
not eating anything. And by and by the old man
"Did I give you the letter?"
"What letter?"
"The one I got yesterday out of the post-office."
"No, you didn't give me no letter."
"Well, I must a forgot it."
So he rummaged his pockets, and then went off somewheres
where he had laid it down, and fetched it, and
give it to her. She says:
"Why, it's from St. Petersburg -- it's from Sis."
I allowed another walk would do me good; but I
couldn't stir. But before she could break it open she
dropped it and run -- for she see something. And so
did I. It was Tom Sawyer on a mattress; and that old
doctor; and Jim, in HER calico dress, with his hands
tied behind him; and a lot of people. I hid the letter
behind the first thing that come handy, and rushed.
She flung herself at Tom, crying, and says:
"Oh, he's dead, he's dead, I know he's dead!"
And Tom he turned his head a little, and muttered
something or other, which showed he warn't in his
right mind; then she flung up her hands, and says:
"He's alive, thank God! And that's enough!"
and she snatched a kiss of him, and flew for the house
to get the bed ready, and scattering orders right and left
at the niggers and everybody else, as fast as her tongue
could go, every jump of the way.
I followed the men to see what they was going to do
with Jim; and the old doctor and Uncle Silas followed
after Tom into the house. The men was very huffy,
and some of them wanted to hang Jim for an example
to all the other niggers around there, so they wouldn't
be trying to run away like Jim done, and making such
a raft of trouble, and keeping a whole family scared
most to death for days and nights. But the others said,
don't do it, it wouldn't answer at all; he ain't our
nigger, and his owner would turn up and make us pay
for him, sure. So that cooled them down a little, because
the people that's always the most anxious for to
hang a nigger that hain't done just right is always the
very ones that ain't the most anxious to pay for him
when they've got their satisfaction out of him.
They cussed Jim considerble, though, and give him
a cuff or two side the head once in a while, but Jim
never said nothing, and he never let on to know me,
and they took him to the same cabin, and put his own
clothes on him, and chained him again, and not to no
bed-leg this time, but to a big staple drove into the bottom
log, and chained his hands, too, and both legs, and
said he warn't to have nothing but bread and water to
eat after this till his owner come, or he was sold at auction
because he didn't come in a certain length of time,
and filled up our hole, and said a couple of farmers
with guns must stand watch around about the cabin
every night, and a bulldog tied to the door in the daytime;
and about this time they was through with the
job and was tapering off with a kind of generl good-bye
cussing, and then the old doctor comes and takes a
look, and says:
"Don't be no rougher on him than you're obleeged
to, because he ain't a bad nigger. When I got to
where I found the boy I see I couldn't cut the bullet
out without some help, and he warn't in no condition
for me to leave to go and get help; and he got a little
worse and a little worse, and after a long time he went
out of his head, and wouldn't let me come a-nigh him
any more, and said if I chalked his raft he'd kill me,
and no end of wild foolishness like that, and I see I
couldn't do anything at all with him; so I says, I got
to have HELP somehow; and the minute I says it out
crawls this nigger from somewheres and says he'll help,
and he done it, too, and done it very well. Of course
I judged he must be a runaway nigger, and there I WAS!
and there I had to stick right straight along all the rest
of the day and all night. It was a fix, I tell you! I
had a couple of patients with the chills, and of course
I'd of liked to run up to town and see them, but I
dasn't, because the nigger might get away, and then I'd
be to blame; and yet never a skiff come close enough
for me to hail. So there I had to stick plumb until
daylight this morning; and I never see a nigger that
was a better nuss or faithfuller, and yet he was risking
his freedom to do it, and was all tired out, too, and I
see plain enough he'd been worked main hard lately.
I liked the nigger for that; I tell you, gentlemen, a
nigger like that is worth a thousand dollars -- and kind
treatment, too. I had everything I needed, and the
boy was doing as well there as he would a done at
home -- better, maybe, because it was so quiet; but
there I WAS, with both of 'm on my hands, and there
I had to stick till about dawn this morning; then some
men in a skiff come by, and as good luck would have
it the nigger was setting by the pallet with his head
propped on his knees sound asleep; so I motioned
them in quiet, and they slipped up on him and grabbed
him and tied him before he knowed what he was
about, and we never had no trouble. And the boy
being in a kind of a flighty sleep, too, we muffled the
oars and hitched the raft on, and towed her over very
nice and quiet, and the nigger never made the least
row nor said a word from the start. He ain't no bad
nigger, gentlemen; that's what I think about him."
Somebody says:
"Well, it sounds very good, doctor, I'm obleeged to
Then the others softened up a little, too, and I was
mighty thankful to that old doctor for doing Jim that
good turn; and I was glad it was according to my judgment
of him, too; because I thought he had a good
heart in him and was a good man the first time I see
him. Then they all agreed that Jim had acted very
well, and was deserving to have some notice took of
it, and reward. So every one of them promised, right
out and hearty, that they wouldn't cuss him no more.
Then they come out and locked him up. I hoped
they was going to say he could have one or two of the
chains took off, because they was rotten heavy, or could
have meat and greens with his bread and water; but
they didn't think of it, and I reckoned it warn't best
for me to mix in, but I judged I'd get the doctor's yarn
to Aunt Sally somehow or other as soon as I'd got
through the breakers that was laying just ahead of me --
explanations, I mean, of how I forgot to mention about
Sid being shot when I was telling how him and me put
in that dratted night paddling around hunting the runaway
But I had plenty time. Aunt Sally she stuck to the
sick-room all day and all night, and every time I see
Uncle Silas mooning around I dodged him.
Next morning I heard Tom was a good deal better,
and they said Aunt Sally was gone to get a nap. So
I slips to the sick-room, and if I found him awake I
reckoned we could put up a yarn for the family that
would wash. But he was sleeping, and sleeping very
peaceful, too; and pale, not fire-faced the way he was
when he come. So I set down and laid for him to
wake. In about half an hour Aunt Sally comes gliding
in, and there I was, up a stump again! She motioned
me to be still, and set down by me, and begun to
whisper, and said we could all be joyful now, because
all the symptoms was first-rate, and he'd been sleeping
like that for ever so long, and looking better and peacefuller
all the time, and ten to one he'd wake up in his
right mind.
So we set there watching, and by and by he stirs a
bit, and opened his eyes very natural, and takes a look,
and says:
"Hello! -- why, I'm at HOME! How's that?
Where's the raft?"
"It's all right," I says.
"And JIM?"
"The same," I says, but couldn't say it pretty
brash. But he never noticed, but says:
"Good! Splendid! NOW we're all right and safe!
Did you tell Aunty?"
I was going to say yes; but she chipped in and says:
"About what, Sid?"
"Why, about the way the whole thing was done."
"What whole thing?"
"Why, THE whole thing. There ain't but one; how
we set the runaway nigger free -- me and Tom."
"Good land! Set the run -- What IS the child
talking about! Dear, dear, out of his head again!"
"NO, I ain't out of my HEAD; I know all what I'm
talking about. We DID set him free -- me and Tom.
We laid out to do it, and we DONE it. And we done
it elegant, too." He'd got a start, and she never
checked him up, just set and stared and stared, and let
him clip along, and I see it warn't no use for ME to put
in. "Why, Aunty, it cost us a power of work --
weeks of it -- hours and hours, every night, whilst you
was all asleep. And we had to steal candles, and the
sheet, and the shirt, and your dress, and spoons, and
tin plates, and case-knives, and the warming-pan, and
the grindstone, and flour, and just no end of things, and
you can't think what work it was to make the saws, and
pens, and inscriptions, and one thing or another, and
you can't think HALF the fun it was. And we had to
make up the pictures of coffins and things, and nonnamous
letters from the robbers, and get up and down
the lightning-rod, and dig the hole into the cabin, and
made the rope ladder and send it in cooked up in a pie,
and send in spoons and things to work with in your
apron pocket --"
"Mercy sakes!"
"-- and load up the cabin with rats and snakes and
so on, for company for Jim; and then you kept Tom
here so long with the butter in his hat that you come
near spiling the whole business, because the men come
before we was out of the cabin, and we had to rush,
and they heard us and let drive at us, and I got my
share, and we dodged out of the path and let them go
by, and when the dogs come they warn't interested in
us, but went for the most noise, and we got our canoe,
and made for the raft, and was all safe, and Jim was
a free man, and we done it all by ourselves, and WASN'T
it bully, Aunty!"
"Well, I never heard the likes of it in all my born
days! So it was YOU, you little rapscallions, that's been
making all this trouble, and turned everybody's wits
clean inside out and scared us all most to death. I've as
good a notion as ever I had in my life to take it out o'
you this very minute. To think, here I've been, night
after night, a -- YOU just get well once, you young
scamp, and I lay I'll tan the Old Harry out o' both o'
But Tom, he WAS so proud and joyful, he just COULDN'T
hold in, and his tongue just WENT it -- she a-chipping
in, and spitting fire all along, and both of them going
it at once, like a cat convention; and she says:
"WELL, you get all the enjoyment you can out of it
NOW, for mind I tell you if I catch you meddling with
him again --"
"Meddling with WHO?" Tom says, dropping his
smile and looking surprised.
"With WHO? Why, the runaway nigger, of course.
Who'd you reckon?"
Tom looks at me very grave, and says:
"Tom, didn't you just tell me he was all right?
Hasn't he got away?"
"HIM?" says Aunt Sally; "the runaway nigger?
'Deed he hasn't. They've got him back, safe and
sound, and he's in that cabin again, on bread and
water, and loaded down with chains, till he's claimed
or sold!"
Tom rose square up in bed, with his eye hot, and
his nostrils opening and shutting like gills, and sings
out to me:
"They hain't no RIGHT to shut him up! SHOVE! --
and don't you lose a minute. Turn him loose! he
ain't no slave; he's as free as any cretur that walks
this earth!"
"What DOES the child mean?"
"I mean every word I SAY, Aunt Sally, and if somebody
don't go, I'LL go. I've knowed him all his life,
and so has Tom, there. Old Miss Watson died two
months ago, and she was ashamed she ever was going
to sell him down the river, and SAID so; and she set
him free in her will."
"Then what on earth did YOU want to set him free
for, seeing he was already free?"
"Well, that IS a question, I must say; and just like
women! Why, I wanted the ADVENTURE of it; and I'd
a waded neck-deep in blood to -- goodness alive, AUNT
If she warn't standing right there, just inside the
door, looking as sweet and contented as an angel half
full of pie, I wish I may never!
Aunt Sally jumped for her, and most hugged the
head off of her, and cried over her, and I found a
good enough place for me under the bed, for it was
getting pretty sultry for us, seemed to me. And I
peeped out, and in a little while Tom's Aunt Polly
shook herself loose and stood there looking across at
Tom over her spectacles -- kind of grinding him into
the earth, you know. And then she says:
"Yes, you BETTER turn y'r head away -- I would if I
was you, Tom."
"Oh, deary me!" says Aunt Sally; "IS he changed
so? Why, that ain't TOM, it's Sid; Tom's -- Tom's
-- why, where is Tom? He was here a minute ago."
"You mean where's Huck FINN -- that's what you
mean! I reckon I hain't raised such a scamp as my
Tom all these years not to know him when I SEE him.
That WOULD be a pretty howdy-do. Come out from
under that bed, Huck Finn."
So I done it. But not feeling brash.
Aunt Sally she was one of the mixed-upest-looking
persons I ever see -- except one, and that was Uncle
Silas, when he come in and they told it all to him. It
kind of made him drunk, as you may say, and he
didn't know nothing at all the rest of the day, and
preached a prayer-meeting sermon that night that gave
him a rattling ruputation, because the oldest man in
the world couldn't a understood it. So Tom's Aunt
Polly, she told all about who I was, and what; and I
had to up and tell how I was in such a tight place that
when Mrs. Phelps took me for Tom Sawyer -- she
chipped in and says, "Oh, go on and call me Aunt
Sally, I'm used to it now, and 'tain't no need to
change" -- that when Aunt Sally took me for Tom
Sawyer I had to stand it -- there warn't no other way,
and I knowed he wouldn't mind, because it would be
nuts for him, being a mystery, and he'd make an adventure
out of it, and be perfectly satisfied. And so
it turned out, and he let on to be Sid, and made things
as soft as he could for me.
And his Aunt Polly she said Tom was right about
old Miss Watson setting Jim free in her will; and so,
sure enough, Tom Sawyer had gone and took all that
trouble and bother to set a free nigger free! and I
couldn't ever understand before, until that minute and
that talk, how he COULD help a body set a nigger free
with his bringing-up.
Well, Aunt Polly she said that when Aunt Sally
wrote to her that Tom and SID had come all right and
safe, she says to herself:
"Look at that, now! I might have expected it,
letting him go off that way without anybody to watch
him. So now I got to go and trapse all the way down
the river, eleven hundred mile, and find out what that
creetur's up to THIS time, as long as I couldn't seem to
get any answer out of you about it."
"Why, I never heard nothing from you," says
Aunt Sally.
"Well, I wonder! Why, I wrote you twice to ask
you what you could mean by Sid being here."
"Well, I never got 'em, Sis."
Aunt Polly she turns around slow and severe, and
"You, Tom!"
"Well -- WHAT?" he says, kind of pettish.
"Don t you what ME, you impudent thing -- hand
out them letters."
"What letters?"
"THEM letters. I be bound, if I have to take aholt
of you I'll --"
"They're in the trunk. There, now. And they're
just the same as they was when I got them out of the
office. I hain't looked into them, I hain't touched
them. But I knowed they'd make trouble, and I
thought if you warn't in no hurry, I'd --"
"Well, you DO need skinning, there ain't no mistake
about it. And I wrote another one to tell you I was
coming; and I s'pose he --"
"No, it come yesterday; I hain't read it yet, but
IT'S all right, I've got that one."
I wanted to offer to bet two dollars she hadn't, but I
reckoned maybe it was just as safe to not to. So I
never said nothing.
THE first time I catched Tom private I asked him
what was his idea, time of the evasion? -- what it
was he'd planned to do if the evasion worked all right
and he managed to set a nigger free that was already
free before? And he said, what he had planned in his
head from the start, if we got Jim out all safe, was for
us to run him down the river on the raft, and have
adventures plumb to the mouth of the river, and then
tell him about his being free, and take him back up
home on a steamboat, in style, and pay him for his
lost time, and write word ahead and get out all the
niggers around, and have them waltz him into town
with a torchlight procession and a brass-band, and then
he would be a hero, and so would we. But I reckoned
it was about as well the way it was.
We had Jim out of the chains in no time, and when
Aunt Polly and Uncle Silas and Aunt Sally found out
how good he helped the doctor nurse Tom, they made
a heap of fuss over him, and fixed him up prime, and
give him all he wanted to eat, and a good time, and
nothing to do. And we had him up to the sick-room,
and had a high talk; and Tom give Jim forty dollars
for being prisoner for us so patient, and doing it up so
good, and Jim was pleased most to death, and busted
out, and says:
"DAH, now, Huck, what I tell you? -- what I tell
you up dah on Jackson islan'? I TOLE you I got a
hairy breas', en what's de sign un it; en I TOLE you I
ben rich wunst, en gwineter to be rich AGIN; en it's
come true; en heah she is! DAH, now! doan' talk
to ME -- signs is SIGNS, mine I tell you; en I knowed
jis' 's well 'at I 'uz gwineter be rich agin as I's astannin'
heah dis minute!"
And then Tom he talked along and talked along,
and says, le's all three slide out of here one of these
nights and get an outfit, and go for howling adventures
amongst the Injuns, over in the Territory, for a couple
of weeks or two; and I says, all right, that suits me,
but I ain't got no money for to buy the outfit, and I
reckon I couldn't get none from home, because it's
likely pap's been back before now, and got it all away
from Judge Thatcher and drunk it up.
"No, he hain't," Tom says; "it's all there yet --
six thousand dollars and more; and your pap hain't
ever been back since. Hadn't when I come away,
Jim says, kind of solemn:
"He ain't a-comin' back no mo', Huck."
I says:
"Why, Jim?"
"Nemmine why, Huck -- but he ain't comin' back
no mo."
But I kept at him; so at last he says:
"Doan' you 'member de house dat was float'n down
de river, en dey wuz a man in dah, kivered up, en I
went in en unkivered him and didn' let you come in?
Well, den, you kin git yo' money when you wants it,
kase dat wuz him."
Tom's most well now, and got his bullet around his
neck on a watch-guard for a watch, and is always
seeing what time it is, and so there ain't nothing more
to write about, and I am rotten glad of it, because if
I'd a knowed what a trouble it was to make a book I
wouldn't a tackled it, and ain't a-going to no more.
But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead
of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt
me and sivilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there

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