Part 3 out of 6
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 too!
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 good-mannered 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 twenty-five, 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
"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
"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 out-run 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
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 different.
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 water-moccasins 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
"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
"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 a-buyin' pots en pans en vittles, as I got a
chanst, en a-patchin' 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 water-moccasins. If anything happens HE ain't
mixed up in it. He can say he never seen us together, and it 'll be the
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 wood-pile I comes across my Jack, and says:
"What's it all about?"
"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
"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
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
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 noise."
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."
"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
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
"What 're you alassin' about?" says the bald-head.
"To think I should have lived to be leading such a life, and be degraded
down into such company." And he begun to wipe the corner of his eye with
"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
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 way.
THEY asked us considerable many questions; wanted to know what we covered
up the raft that way for, and laid by in the daytime instead of running
--was Jim a runaway nigger? Says I:
"Goodness sakes! would a runaway nigger run SOUTH?"
No, they allowed he wouldn't. I had to account for things some way, so I
"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 healthy."
Towards night it begun to darken up and look like rain; the heat
lightning was squirting around low down in the sky, and the leaves was
beginning to shiver--it was going to be pretty ugly, it was easy to see
that. So the duke and the king went to overhauling our wigwam, to see
what the beds was like. My bed was a straw tick better than Jim's, which
was a corn-shuck tick; there's always cobs around about in a shuck tick,
and they poke into you and hurt; and when you roll over the dry shucks
sound like you was rolling over in a pile of dead leaves; it makes such a
rustling that you wake up. Well, the duke allowed he would take my bed;
but the king allowed he wouldn't. He says:
"I should a reckoned the difference in rank would a sejested to you that
a corn-shuck bed warn't just fitten for me to sleep on. Your Grace 'll
take the shuck bed yourself."
Jim and me was in a sweat again for a minute, being afraid there was
going to be some more trouble amongst them; so we was pretty glad when
the duke says:
"'Tis my fate to be always ground into the mire under the iron heel of
oppression. Misfortune has broken my once haughty spirit; I yield, I
submit; 'tis my fate. I am alone in the world--let me suffer; can bear
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-bum-bum-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 day.
The king got out an old ratty deck of cards after breakfast, and him and
the duke played seven-up a while, five cents a game. Then they got tired
of it, and allowed they would "lay out a campaign," as they called it.
The duke went down into his carpet-bag, and fetched up a lot of little
printed bills and read them out loud. One bill said, "The celebrated Dr.
Armand de Montalban, of Paris," would "lecture on the Science of
Phrenology" at such and such a place, on the blank day of blank, at ten
cents 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,
"No," says the king.
"You shall, then, before you're three days older, Fallen Grandeur," says
the duke. "The first good town we come to we'll hire a hall and do the
sword fight in Richard III. and the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet.
How does that strike you?"
"I'm in, up to the hub, for anything that will pay, Bilgewater; but, you
see, I don't know nothing about play-actin', and hain't ever seen much of
it. I was too small when pap used to have 'em at the palace. Do you
reckon you can learn me?"
"All right. I'm jist a-freezn' for something fresh, anyway. Le's
commence right away."
So the duke he told him all about who Romeo was and who Juliet was, and
said he was used to being Romeo, so the king could be Juliet.
"But if Juliet's such a young gal, duke, my peeled head and my white
whiskers is goin' to look oncommon odd on her, maybe."
"No, don't you worry; these country jakes won't ever think of that.
Besides, you know, you'll be in costume, and that makes all the
difference in the world; Juliet's in a balcony, enjoying the moonlight
before she goes to bed, and she's got on her night-gown and her ruffled
nightcap. Here are the costumes for the parts."
He got out two or three curtain-calico suits, which he said was meedyevil
armor for Richard III. and t'other chap, and a long white cotton
nightshirt and a ruffled nightcap to match. The king was satisfied; so
the duke got out his book and read the parts over in the most splendid
spread-eagle way, prancing around and acting at the same time, to show
how it had got to be done; then he give the book to the king and told him
to get his part by heart.
There was a little one-horse town about three mile down the bend, and
after dinner the duke said he had ciphered out his idea about how to run
in daylight without it being dangersome for Jim; so he allowed he would
go down to the town and fix that thing. The king allowed he would go,
too, and see if he couldn't strike something. We was out of coffee, so
Jim said I better go along with them in the canoe and get some.
When we got there there warn't nobody stirring; streets empty, and
perfectly dead and still, like 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 camp-meeting, about two mile back in the
woods. The king got the directions, and allowed he'd go and work that
camp-meeting for all it was worth, and I might go, too.
The duke said what he was after was a printing-office. We found it; a
little bit of a concern, up over a carpenter shop--carpenters and
printers all gone to the meeting, and no doors locked. It was a dirty,
littered-up place, and had ink marks, and handbills with pictures of
horses and runaway niggers on them, all over the walls. The duke shed
his coat and said he was all right now. So me and the king lit out for
We got there in about a half an hour fairly dripping, for it was a most
awful hot day. There was as much as a thousand people there from twenty
mile around. The woods was full of teams and wagons, hitched
everywheres, feeding out of the wagon-troughs and stomping to keep off
the flies. There was sheds made out of poles and roofed over with
branches, where they had lemonade and gingerbread to sell, and piles of
watermelons and green corn and such-like truck.
The preaching was going on under the same kinds of sheds, only they was
bigger and held crowds of people. The benches was made out of outside
slabs of logs, with holes bored in the round side to drive sticks into
for legs. They didn't have no backs. The preachers had high platforms to
stand on at one end of the sheds. The women had on sun-bonnets; and some
had linsey-woolsey frocks, some gingham ones, and a few of the young ones
had on calico. Some of the young men was barefooted, and some of the
children didn't have on any clothes but just a tow-linen shirt. Some of
the old women was knitting, and some of the young folks was courting on
The 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,
And so on. You couldn't make out what the preacher said any more, on
account of the shouting and crying. Folks got up everywheres in the
crowd, and worked their way just by main strength to the mourners' bench,
with the tears running down their faces; and when all the mourners had
got up there to the front benches in a crowd, they sung and shouted and
flung themselves down on the straw, just crazy and wild.
Well, the first I knowed the king got a-going, and you could hear him
over everybody; and next he went a-charging up on to the platform, and
the preacher he begged him to speak to the people, and he done it. He
told them he was a pirate--been a pirate for thirty years out in the
Indian Ocean--and his crew was thinned out considerable last spring in
a fight, and he was home now to take out some fresh men, and thanks to
goodness he'd been robbed last night and put ashore off of a steamboat
without a cent, and he was glad of it; it was the blessedest thing that
ever happened to him, because he was a changed man now, and happy for the
first time in his life; and, poor as he was, he was going to start right
off and work his way back to the Indian Ocean, and put in the rest of his
life trying to turn the pirates into the true path; for he could do it
better than anybody else, being acquainted with all pirate crews in that
ocean; and though it would take him a long time to get there without
money, he would get there anyway, and every time he convinced a pirate he
would say to him, "Don't you thank me, don't you give me no credit; it
all belongs to them dear people in Pokeville camp-meeting, natural
brothers and benefactors of the race, and that dear preacher there, the
truest friend a pirate ever had!"
And then he busted into tears, and so did everybody. Then somebody sings
out, "Take up a collection for him, take up a collection!" Well, a half
a dozen made a jump to do it, but somebody sings out, "Let HIM pass the
hat around!" Then everybody said it, the preacher too.
So the king went all through the crowd with his hat swabbing his eyes,
and blessing the people and praising them and thanking them for being so
good to the poor pirates away off there; and every little while the
prettiest kind of girls, with the tears running down their cheeks, would
up and ask him would he let them kiss him for to remember him by; and he
always done it; and some of them he hugged and kissed as many as five or
six times--and he was invited to stay a week; and everybody wanted him to
live in their houses, and said they'd think it was an honor; but he said
as this was the last day of the camp-meeting he couldn't do no good, and
besides he was in a sweat to get to the Indian Ocean right off and go to
work on the pirates.
When we got back to the raft and he come to count up he found he had
collected eighty-seven dollars and seventy-five cents. And then he had
fetched away a three-gallon jug of whisky, too, that he found under a
wagon when he was starting home through the woods. The king said, take
it all around, it laid over any day he'd ever put in in the missionarying
line. He said it warn't no use talking, heathens don't amount to shucks
alongside of pirates to work a camp-meeting with.
The duke was thinking HE'D been doing pretty well till the king come to
show up, but after that he didn't think so so much. He had set up and
printed off two little jobs for farmers in that printing-office--horse
bills--and took the money, four dollars. And he had got in ten
dollars' worth of advertisements for the paper, which he said he would
put in for four dollars if they would pay in advance--so they done it.
The price of the paper was two dollars a year, but he took in three
subscriptions for half a dollar apiece on 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
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
I found Jim had been trying to get him to talk French, so he could hear
what it was like; but he said he had been in this country so long, and
had so much trouble, he'd forgot it.
IT was after sun-up now, but we went right on and didn't tie up. The
king and the duke turned out by and by looking pretty rusty; but after
they'd jumped overboard and took a swim it chippered them up a good deal.
After breakfast the king he took a seat on the corner of the raft, and
pulled off his boots and rolled up his britches, and let his legs dangle
in the water, so as to be comfortable, and lit his pipe, and went to
getting his Romeo and Juliet by heart. When he had got it pretty good
him and the duke begun to practice it together. The duke had to learn
him over and over again how to say every speech; and he made him sigh,
and put his hand on his heart, and after a while he said he done it
pretty well; "only," he says, "you mustn't bellow out ROMEO! that way,
like a bull--you must say it soft and sick and languishy, so--R-o-o-meo!
that is the idea; for Juliet's a dear sweet mere child of a girl, you
know, and she doesn't bray like a jackass."
Well, next they got out a couple of long swords that the duke made out of
oak laths, and begun to practice the sword fight--the duke called himself
Richard III.; and the way they laid on and pranced around the raft was
grand to see. But by and by the king tripped and fell overboard, and
after that they took a rest, and had a talk about all kinds of adventures
they'd had in other times along the river.
After dinner the duke says:
"Well, Capet, we'll want to make this a first-class show, you know, so I
guess we'll add a little more to it. We want a little something to
answer encores with, anyway."
"What's onkores, Bilgewater?"
The duke told him, and then says:
"I'll answer by doing the Highland fling or the sailor's hornpipe; and
you--well, let me see--oh, I've got it--you can do Hamlet's soliloquy."
"Hamlet's soliloquy, you know; the most celebrated thing in Shakespeare.
Ah, it's sublime, sublime! 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 vaults."
So he went to marching up and down, thinking, and frowning horrible every
now and then; then he would hoist up his eyebrows; next he would squeeze
his hand on his forehead and stagger back and kind of moan; next he would
sigh, and next he'd let on to drop a tear. It was beautiful to see him.
By and by he got it. He told us to give attention. Then he strikes a
most noble attitude, with one leg shoved forwards, and his arms stretched
away up, and his head tilted back, looking up at the sky; and then he
begins to rip and rave and grit his teeth; and after that, all through
his speech, he howled, and spread around, and swelled up his chest, and
just knocked the spots out of any acting ever I see before. This is the
speech--I learned it, easy enough, while he was learning it to the king:
To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin That makes calamity of so
long life; For who would fardels bear, till Birnam Wood do come to
Dunsinane, But that the fear of something after death Murders the
innocent sleep, Great nature's second course, And makes us rather sling
the arrows of outrageous fortune Than fly to others that we know not of.
There's the respect must give us pause: Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I
would thou couldst; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The
oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The law's delay, and the
quietus which his pangs might take, In the dead waste and middle of the
night, when churchyards yawn In customary suits of solemn black, But that
the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns, Breathes
forth contagion on the world, And thus the native hue of resolution, like
the poor cat i' the adage, Is sicklied o'er with care, And all the clouds
that lowered o'er our housetops, With this regard their currents turn
awry, And lose the name of action. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to be
wished. But soft you, the fair Ophelia: Ope not thy ponderous and marble
jaws, But get thee to a nunnery--go!
Well, the old man he liked that speech, and he mighty soon got it so he
could do it first-rate. It seemed like he was just born for it; and when
he had his hand in and was excited, it was perfectly lovely the way he
would rip and tear and rair up behind when he was getting it off.
The first chance we got the duke he had some 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
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 ! ! !
For One Night Only!
The world renowned tragedians, David Garrick the Younger, of Drury Lane
Theatre London, and Edmund Kean the elder, of the Royal Haymarket
Theatre, Whitechapel, Pudding Lane, Piccadilly, London, and the Royal
Continental Theatres, in their sublime Shaksperean Spectacle entitled
TheBalcony Scene in Romeo and Juliet ! ! !
Assisted by the whole strength of the company!
New costumes, new scenes, new appointments!
Also: The thrilling, masterly, and blood-curdling
Broad-sword conflict In Richard III. ! ! !
Richard III.............Mr. Garrick
Also: (by special request) Hamlet's Immortal Soliloquy ! !
By The Illustrious Kean! Done by him 300 consecutive nights in Paris!
For One Night Only, On account of imperative European engagements!
Admission 25 cents; children and servants, 10 cents.
Then we went loafing around town. The stores and houses was most all
old, shackly, dried up frame 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 over-flowed. The houses had little
gardens around them, but they didn't seem to raise hardly anything in
them but jimpson-weeds, and sunflowers, and ash piles, and old curled-up
boots and shoes, and pieces of bottles, and rags, and played-out tinware.
The fences was made of different kinds of boards, nailed on at 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
white-washed some time or another, but the duke said it was in Clumbus'
time, like enough. There was generly hogs in the garden, and people
driving them out.
All the stores was along one street. They had white domestic awnings in
front, and the country 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
"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
"Well, I DID pay you back some of it wunst."
"Yes, you did--'bout six chaws. You borry'd store tobacker and paid back
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
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 die?"
Then he rode on. I was scared, but a man says:
"He don't mean nothing; he's always a-carryin' on like that when he's
drunk. He's the best 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 a-flying. Everybody that could get a chance at him
tried their best to coax him off of his horse so they could lock him up
and get him sober; but it warn't no use--up the street he would tear
again, and give Sherburn another cussing. By and by somebody says:
"Go for his daughter!--quick, go for his daughter; sometimes he'll listen
to her. If anybody can persuade him, she can."
So somebody started on a run. I walked down street a ways and stopped.
In about five or ten minutes here comes Boggs again, but not on his
horse. He was a-reeling across the street towards me, bare-headed, with
a friend on both sides of him a-holt of his arms and hurrying him along.
He was quiet, and looked uneasy; and he warn't hanging back any, but was
doing some of the hurrying himself. Somebody sings out:
I looked over there to see who said it, and it was that Colonel Sherburn.
He was standing perfectly still in the street, and had a pistol raised in
his right hand--not aiming it, but holding it out with the barrel tilted
up towards the sky. The same second I see a young girl coming on the
run, and two men with her. Boggs and the men turned round to see who
called him, and when they see the pistol the men jumped to one side, and
the pistol-barrel come down slow and steady to a level--both barrels
cocked. Boggs throws up both of his hands and says, "O Lord, don't
shoot!" Bang! goes the first shot, and he staggers back, clawing at the
air--bang! goes the second one, and he tumbles backwards on to the
ground, heavy and solid, with his arms spread out. That young girl
screamed out and comes rushing, and down she throws herself on her
father, crying, and saying, "Oh, he's killed him, he's killed him!" The
crowd closed up around them, and shouldered and jammed one another, with
their necks stretched, trying to see, and people on the inside trying to
shove them back and shouting, "Back, back! give him air, give him air!"
Colonel Sherburn he tossed his pistol on to the ground, and turned around
on his heels and walked off.
They took Boggs to a little drug store, the crowd pressing around just
the same, and the whole town following, and I rushed and got a good place
at the window, where I was close to him and could see in. They laid him
on the floor and put one large Bible under his head, and opened another
one and spread it on his breast; but they tore open his shirt first, and
I seen where one of the bullets went in. He made about a dozen long
gasps, his breast lifting the Bible up when he drawed in his breath, and
letting it down again when he breathed it out--and after that he laid
still; he was dead. Then they pulled his daughter away from him,
screaming and crying, and took her off. She was about sixteen, and very
sweet and gentle looking, but awful pale and scared.
Well, pretty soon the whole town was there, 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 with.
THEY swarmed up towards Sherburn's house, a-whooping and raging like
Injuns, and everything had to clear the way or get run over and tromped
to mush, and it was awful to see. Children was heeling it ahead of the
mob, screaming and trying to get out of the way; and every window along
the road was full of women's heads, and there was nigger boys in every
tree, and bucks and wenches looking over every fence; and as soon as the
mob would get nearly to them they would break and skaddle back out of
reach. Lots of the women and girls was crying and taking on, scared most
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
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
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
out-gaze him, but they couldn't; they dropped their eyes and looked sneaky.
Then pretty soon Sherburn sort of laughed; not the pleasant kind, but the
kind that makes you feel like when you are eating bread that's got sand
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
Well, all through the circus they done the most astonishing things; and
all the time that clown carried on so it most killed the people. The
ringmaster couldn't ever say a word to him but he was back at him quick
as a wink with the funniest things a body ever said; and how he ever
COULD think of so many of them, and so sudden and so pat, was what I
couldn't noway understand. Why, I couldn't a thought of them in a year.
And by and by a drunk man tried to get into the ring--said he wanted to
ride; said he could ride as well as anybody that ever was. They argued
and tried to keep him out, but he wouldn't listen, and the whole show
come to a standstill. Then the people begun to holler at him and make
fun of him, and that made him mad, and he begun to rip and tear; so that
stirred up the people, and a lot of men begun to pile down off of the
benches and swarm towards the ring, saying, "Knock him down! throw him
out!" and one or two women begun to scream. So, then, the ringmaster he
made a little speech, and said he hoped there wouldn't be no disturbance,
and if the man would promise he wouldn't make no more trouble he would
let him ride if he thought he could stay on the horse. So everybody
laughed and said all right, and the man got on. The minute he was on, the
horse begun to rip and tear and jump and cavort around, with two circus
men hanging on to his bridle trying to hold him, and the drunk man
hanging on to his neck, and his heels flying in the air every jump, and
the whole crowd of people standing up shouting and laughing till tears
rolled down. And at last, sure enough, all the circus men could do, the
horse broke loose, and away he went like the very nation, round and round
the ring, with that sot laying down on him and hanging to his neck, with
first one leg hanging most to the ground on one side, and then t'other
one on t'other side, and the people just crazy. It warn't funny to me,
though; I was all of a tremble to see his danger. But pretty soon he
struggled up astraddle and grabbed the bridle, a-reeling this way and
that; and the next minute he sprung up and dropped the bridle and stood!
and the horse a-going like a house afire too. He just stood up there,
a-sailing around as easy and comfortable as if he warn't ever drunk in his
life--and then he begun to pull off his clothes and sling them. He shed
them so thick they kind of clogged up the air, and altogether he shed
seventeen suits. And, then, there he was, slim and handsome, and dressed
the gaudiest and prettiest you ever saw, and he lit into that horse with
his whip and made him fairly hum--and finally skipped off, and made his
bow and danced off to the dressing-room, and everybody just a-howling
with pleasure and astonishment.
Then the ringmaster he see how he had been fooled, and he WAS the sickest
ringmaster you ever see, I reckon. Why, it was one of his own men! He
had got up that joke all out of his own head, and never let on to nobody.
Well, I felt sheepish enough to be took in so, but I wouldn't a been in
that ringmaster's place, not for a thousand dollars. I don't know; there
may be bullier circuses than what that one was, but I never struck them
yet. Anyways, it was plenty good enough for ME; and wherever I run across
it, it can have all of MY custom every time.
Well, that night we had OUR show; but there warn't only about twelve
people there--just enough to pay expenses. And they laughed all the
time, and that made the duke mad; and everybody left, anyway, before the
show was over, but one boy which was asleep. So the duke said these
Arkansaw lunkheads couldn't come up to Shakespeare; what they wanted was
low comedy--and maybe something ruther worse than low comedy, he
reckoned. He said he could size their style. So next morning he got
some big sheets of wrapping paper and some black paint, and drawed off
some handbills, and stuck them up all over the village. The bills said:
AT THE COURT HOUSE! FOR 3 NIGHTS ONLY!
The World-Renowned Tragedians
DAVID GARRICK THE YOUNGER!
AND EDMUND KEAN THE ELDER!
Of the London and
In their Thrilling Tragedy of
THE KING'S CAMELEOPARD,
OR THE ROYAL NONESUCH ! ! !
Admission 50 cents.
Then at the bottom was the biggest line of all, which said:
LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED.
"There," says he, "if that line don't fetch them, I don't know Arkansaw!"
WELL, all day him and the king was hard at it, rigging up a stage and a
curtain and a row of candles for footlights; and that night the house was
jam full of men in no time. When the place couldn't hold no more, the
duke he quit tending door and went around the back way and come on to the
stage and stood up before the curtain and made a little speech, and
praised up this tragedy, and said it was the most thrillingest one that
ever was; and so he went on a-bragging about the tragedy, and about
Edmund Kean the Elder, which was to play the main principal part in it;
and at last when he'd got everybody's 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, ring-streaked-and-
striped, all sorts of colors, as splendid as a rainbow. And--but never
mind the rest of his outfit; it was just wild, but it was awful funny.
The people most killed themselves laughing; and when the king got done
capering and capered off behind the scenes, they roared and clapped and
stormed and haw-hawed till he come back and done it over again, and after
that they made him do it another time. Well, it would make a cow laugh to
see the shines that old idiot cut.
Then the duke he lets the curtain down, and bows to the people, and says
the great tragedy will be 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 shouts:
"Hold on! Just a word, gentlemen." They stopped to listen. "We are
sold--mighty badly sold. But we don't want to be the laughing stock of
this whole town, I reckon, and never hear the last of this thing as long
as we live. NO. What we want is to go out of here quiet, and talk this
show up, and sell the REST of the town! Then we'll all be in the same
boat. Ain't that sensible?" ("You bet it is!--the jedge is right!"
everybody sings out.) "All right, then--not a word about any sell. Go
along home, and 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 you!"
I done it, and he done the same. We struck the raft at the same time,
and in less than two seconds we was gliding down stream, all dark and
still, and edging towards the middle of the river, nobody saying a word.
I reckoned the poor king was in for a gaudy time of it with the audience,
but nothing of the sort; pretty soon he crawls out from under the wigwam,
"Well, how'd the old thing pan out this time, duke?" He hadn't been
up-town at all.
We never showed a light till we was about ten mile below the village.
Then we lit up and had a supper, and the king and the duke fairly laughed
their bones loose over the way they'd served them people. The duke says:
"Greenhorns, flatheads! I knew the first house would keep mum and let
the rest of the town get roped in; and I knew they'd lay for us the third
night, and consider it was THEIR turn now. Well, it IS their turn, and
I'd give something to know how much they'd take for it. I WOULD just
like to know how they're putting in their opportunity. They can turn it
into a picnic if they want to--they brought plenty provisions."
Them rapscallions took in four hundred and sixty-five dollars in that
three nights. I never see money hauled in by the wagon-load like that
before. By and by, when they was asleep and snoring, Jim says:
"Don't it s'prise you de way dem kings carries on, Huck?"
"No," I says, "it don't."
"Why don't it, Huck?"
"Well, it don't, because it's in the breed. I reckon they're all alike,"
"But, Huck, dese kings o' ourn is reglar 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 ways."
"Yes, a duke's different. But not very different. This one's a middling
hard lot for a duke. When he's drunk there ain't no near-sighted man
could tell him from a king."
"Well, anyways, I doan' hanker for no mo' un um, Huck. Dese is all I kin
"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 a-treat'n her so!"
NEXT day, towards night, we laid up under a little willow towhead out in
the middle, where there was a village on each side of the river, and the
duke and the king begun to lay out a plan for working them towns. Jim he
spoke to the duke, and said he hoped it wouldn't take but a few hours,
because it got mighty heavy and tiresome to him when he had to lay all
day in the wigwam tied with the rope. You see, when we left him all
alone we had to tie him, because if 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 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