Part 2 out of 4
"The whole thing is moonshine; now then, go ahead and do
your worst; I'm done with you."
Roxy made no answer. She took the lantern and started for the door.
Tom was in a cold panic in a moment.
"Come back, come back!" he wailed. "I didn't mean it, Roxy;
I take it all back, and I'll never say it again! Please come back, Roxy!"
The woman stood a moment, then she said gravely:
"Dat's one thing you's got to stop, Valet de Chambers. You can't
call me _Roxy_, same as if you was my equal. Chillen don't speak to
dey mammies like dat. You'll call me ma or mammy, dat's what you'll
call me--leastways when de ain't nobody aroun'. _Say_ it!"
It cost Tom a struggle, but he got it out.
"Dat's all right. don't you ever forgit it ag'in, if you knows
what's good for you. Now den, you had said you wouldn't ever call
it lies en moonshine ag'in. I'll tell you dis, for a warnin':
if you ever does say it ag'in, it's de LAS' time you'll ever say
it to me; I'll tramp as straight to de judge as I kin walk,
en tell him who you is, en _prove_ it. Does you b'lieve me when I says dat?"
"Oh," groaned Tom, "I more than believe it; I _know_ it."
Roxy knew her conquest was complete. She could have proved nothing
to anybody, and her threat of writings was a lie; but she knew the
person she was dealing with, and had made both statements without any
doubt as to the effect they would produce.
She went and sat down on her candle box, and the pride and pomp of
her victorious attitude made it a throne. She said:
"Now den, Chambers, we's gwine to talk business, en dey ain't gwine
to be no mo' foolishness. In de fust place, you gits fifty dollahs
a month; you's gwine to han' over half of it to yo' ma. Plank it out!"
But Tom had only six dollars in the world. He gave her that,
and promised to start fair on next month's pension.
"Chambers, how much is you in debt?"
Tom shuddered, and said:
"Nearly three hundred dollars."
"How is you gwine to pay it?"
Tom groaned out: "Oh, I don't know; don't ask me such awful questions."
But she stuck to her point until she wearied a confession out of him:
he had been prowling about in disguise, stealing small valuables from
private houses; in fact, he made a good deal of a raid on his fellow
villagers a fortnight before, when he was supposed to be in St. Louis;
but he doubted if he had sent away enough stuff to realize the
required amount, and was afraid to make a further venture in the
present excited state of the town. His mother approved of his conduct,
and offered to help, but this frightened him. He tremblingly ventured
to say that if she would retire from the town he should feel better
and safer, and could hold his head higher--and was going on to make
an argument, but she interrupted and surprised him pleasantly by saying
she was ready; it didn't make any difference to her where she stayed,
so that she got her share of the pension regularly. She said she would
not go far, and would call at the haunted house once a month for her money.
Then she said:
"I don't hate you so much now, but I've hated you a many a year--
and anybody would. Didn't I change you off, en give you a good fambly
en a good name, en made you a white gen'l'man en rich, wid store
clothes on--en what did I git for it? You despised me all de time,
en was al'ays sayin' mean hard things to me befo' folks, en wouldn't
ever let me forgit I's a nigger--en--en--"
She fell to sobbing, and broke down. Tom said: "But you know I
didn't know you were my mother; and besides--"
"Well, nemmine 'bout dat, now; let it go. I's gwine to fo'git it."
Then she added fiercely, "En don't ever make me remember it ag'in,
or you'll be sorry, _I_ tell you."
When they were parting, Tom said, in the most persuasive way
he could command:
"Ma, would you mind telling me who was my father?"
He had supposed he was asking an embarrassing question. He was mistaken.
Roxy drew herself up with a proud toss of her head, and said:
"Does I mine tellin' you? No, dat I don't! You ain't got no 'casion
to be shame' o' yo' father, _I_ kin tell you. He wuz de highest quality
in dis whole town--ole Virginny stock. Fust famblies, he wuz.
Jes as good stock as de Driscolls en de Howards, de bes' day dey
ever seed." She put on a little prouder air, if possible,
and added impressively: "Does you 'member Cunnel Cecil Burleigh Essex,
dat died de same year yo' young Marse Tom Driscoll's pappy died,
en all de Masons en Odd Fellers en Churches turned out en give him de
bigges' funeral dis town ever seed? Dat's de man."
Under the inspiration of her soaring complacency the departed graces of
her earlier days returned to her, and her bearing took to itself a
dignity and state that might have passed for queenly if her
surroundings had been a little more in keeping with it.
"Dey ain't another nigger in dis town dat's as highbawn as you is.
Now den, go 'long! En jes you hold yo' head up as high as you want to--
you has de right, en dat I kin swah."
The Nymph Revealed
All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"--a strange complaint
to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
When angry, count four; when very angry, swear.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
Every now and then, after Tom went to bed, he had sudden wakings
out of his sleep, and his first thought was, "Oh, joy, it was
all a dream!" Then he laid himself heavily down again, with a groan
and the muttered words, "A nigger! I am a nigger! Oh, I wish I was dead!"
He woke at dawn with one more repetition of this horror, and then he
resolved to meddle no more with that treacherous sleep.
He began to think. Sufficiently bitter thinkings they were.
They wandered along something after this fashion:
Why were niggers _and_ whites made? What crime did the uncreated
first nigger commit that the curse of birth was decreed for him?
And why is this awful difference made between white and black? . . .
How hard the nigger's fate seems, this morning!--yet until last night
such a thought never entered my head."
He sighed and groaned an hour or more away. Then "Chambers" came humbly
in to say that breakfast was nearly ready. "Tom" blushed scarlet to
see this aristocratic white youth cringe to him, a nigger,
and call him "Young Marster." He said roughly:
"Get out of my sight!" and when the youth was gone, he muttered,
"He has done me no harm, poor wrench, but he is an eyesore to me now,
for he is Driscoll, the young gentleman, and I am a--oh, I wish I was dead!"
A gigantic eruption, like that of Krakatoa a few years ago,
with the accompanying earthquakes, tidal waves, and clouds of
volcanic dust, changes the face of the surrounding landscape
beyond recognition, bringing down the high lands, elevating the low,
making fair lakes where deserts had been, and deserts where green
prairies had smiled before. The tremendous catastrophe which had
befallen Tom had changed his moral landscape in much the same way.
Some of his low places he found lifted to ideals, some of his ideas
had sunk to the valleys, and lay there with the sackcloth and ashes
of pumice stone and sulphur on their ruined heads.
For days he wandered in lonely places, thinking, thinking, thinking--
trying to get his bearings. It was new work. If he met a friend,
he found that the habit of a lifetime had in some mysterious way vanished--
his arm hung limp, instead of involuntarily extending the hand for a shake.
It was the "nigger" in him asserting its humility, and he blushed
and was abashed. And the "nigger" in him was surprised when the white
friend put out his hand for a shake with him. He found the "nigger"
in him involuntarily giving the road, on the sidewalk,
to a white rowdy and loafer. When Rowena, the dearest thing his heart knew,
the idol of his secret worship, invited him in, the "nigger" in him made
an embarrassed excuse and was afraid to enter and sit with the dread
white folks on equal terms. The "nigger" in him went shrinking
and skulking here and there and yonder, and fancying it saw suspicion and
maybe detection in all faces, tones, and gestures. So strange and
uncharacteristic was Tom's conduct that people noticed it,
and turned to look after him when he passed on; and when he
glanced back--as he could not help doing, in spite of his best
resistance--and caught that puzzled expression in a person's face,
it gave him a sick feeling, and he took himself out of view as quickly
as he could. He presently came to have a hunted sense and a hunted look,
and then he fled away to the hilltops and the solitudes.
He said to himself that the curse of Ham was upon him.
He dreaded his meals; the "nigger" in him was ashamed to sit at the
white folk's table, and feared discovery all the time; and once when Judge
Driscoll said, "What's the matter with you? You look as meek as
a nigger," he felt as secret murderers are said to feel when
the accuser says, "Thou art the man!" Tom said he was not well,
and left the table.
His ostensible "aunt's" solicitudes and endearments were become
a terror to him, and he avoided them.
And all the time, hatred of his ostensible "uncle" was steadily growing
in his heart; for he said to himself, "He is white; and I am
his chattel, his property, his goods, and he can sell me, just as
he could his dog."
For as much as a week after this, Tom imagined that his character had
undergone a pretty radical change. But that was because he did
not know himself.
In several ways his opinions were totally changed, and would never go
back to what they were before, but the main structure of his character
was not changed, and could not be changed. One or two very important
features of it were altered, and in time effects would result from this,
if opportunity offered--effects of a quite serious nature, too.
Under the influence of a great mental and moral upheaval, his character
and his habits had taken on the appearance of complete change,
but after a while with the subsidence of the storm, both began to
settle toward their former places. He dropped gradually back into his
old frivolous and easygoing ways and conditions of feeling and manner
of speech, and no familiar of his could have detected anything in him that
differentiated him from the weak and careless Tom of other days.
The theft raid which he had made upon the village turned out better than
he had ventured to hope. It produced the sum necessary to pay
his gaming debts, and saved him from exposure to his uncle and
another smashing of the will. He and his mother learned to like
each other fairly well. She couldn't love him, as yet,
because there "warn't nothing _to_ him," as she expressed it,
but her nature needed something or somebody to rule over,
and he was better than nothing. Her strong character and aggressive
and commanding ways compelled Tom's admiration in spite of the fact
that he got more illustrations of them than he needed for his comfort.
However, as a rule her conversation was made up of racy tale about the
privacies of the chief families of the town (for she went harvesting
among their kitchens every time she came to the village),
and Tom enjoyed this. It was just in his line. She always collected
her half of his pension punctually, and he was always at the haunted
house to have a chat with her on these occasions. Every now and then,
she paid him a visit there on between-days also.
Occasions he would run up to St. Louis for a few weeks, and at last
temptation caught him again. He won a lot of money, but lost it,
and with it a deal more besides, which he promised to raise as
soon as possible.
For this purpose he projected a new raid on his town. He never meddled
with any other town, for he was afraid to venture into houses whose
ins and outs he did not know and the habits of whose households he
was not acquainted with. He arrived at the haunted house in disguise
on the Wednesday before the advent of the twins--after writing his
Aunt Pratt that he would not arrive until two days after--and laying
in hiding there with his mother until toward daylight Friday morning,
when he went to his uncle's house and entered by the back way with his
own key, and slipped up to his room where he could have the use of the
mirror and toilet articles. He had a suit of girl's clothes with him in a
bundle as a disguise for his raid, and was wearing a suit of his
mother's clothing, with black gloves and veil. By dawn he was tricked out
for his raid, but he caught a glimpse of Pudd'nhead Wilson through the
window over the way, and knew that Pudd'nhead had caught a glimpse of him.
So he entertained Wilson with some airs and graces and attitudes
for a while, then stepped out of sight and resumed the other disguise,
and by and by went down and out the back way and started downtown
to reconnoiter the scene of his intended labors.
But he was ill at ease. He had changed back to Roxy's dress,
with the stoop of age added to he disguise, so that Wilson
would not bother himself about a humble old women leaving a
neighbor's house by the back way in the early morning, in case he
was still spying. But supposing Wilson had seen him leave,
and had thought it suspicious, and had also followed him?
The thought made Tom cold. He gave up the raid for the day,
and hurried back to the haunted house by the obscurest route he knew.
His mother was gone; but she came back, by and by, with the news
of the grand reception at Patsy Cooper's, and soon persuaded him
that the opportunity was like a special Providence, it was so
inviting and perfect. So he went raiding, after all, and made a
nice success of it while everybody was gone to Patsy Cooper's.
Success gave him nerve and even actual intrepidity; insomuch,
indeed, that after he had conveyed his harvest to his mother in a
back alley, he went to the reception himself, and added several
of the valuables of that house to his takings.
After this long digression we have now arrived once more at the point
where Pudd'nhead Wilson, while waiting for the arrival of the twins
on that same Friday evening, sat puzzling over the strange apparition
of that morning--a girl in young Tom Driscoll's bedroom; fretting,
and guessing, and puzzling over it, and wondering who the shameless
creature might be.
Pudd'nhead's Thrilling Discovery
There are three infallible ways of pleasing an author, and the three
form a rising scale of compliment: 1--to tell him you have read one
of his books; 2--to tell him you have read all of his books;
3--to ask him to let you read the manuscript of his forthcoming book.
No. 1 admits you to his respect; No. 2 admits you to his admiration;
No. 3 carries you clear into his heart.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
As to the Adjective: when in doubt, strike it out.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
The twins arrived presently, and talk began. It flowed along
chattily and sociably, and under its influence the new friendship
gathered ease and strength. Wilson got out his Calendar, by request,
and read a passage or two from it, which the twins praised quite cordially.
This pleased the author so much that he complied gladly when the asked
him to lend them a batch of the work to read at home. In the course of
their wide travels, they had found out that there are three sure ways of
pleasing an author; they were now working the best of the three.
There was an interruption now. Young Driscoll appeared, and joined
the party. He pretended to be seeing the distinguished strangers for
the first time when they rose to shake hands; but this was only a blind,
as he had already had a glimpse of them, at the reception, while robbing
the house. The twins made mental note that he was smooth-faced and
rather handsome, and smooth and undulatory in his movements--graceful,
in fact. Angelo thought he had a good eye; Luigi thought there was
something veiled and sly about it. Angelo thought he had a pleasant
free-and-easy way of talking; Luigi thought it was more so than was agreeable.
Angelo thought he was a sufficiently nice young man; Luigi reserved
his decision. Tom's first contribution to the conversation was a
question which he had put to Wilson a hundred times before.
It was always cheerily and good-natured put, and always inflicted a
little pang, for it touched a secret sore; but this time the pang
was sharp, since strangers were present.
"Well, how does the law come on? Had a case yet?"
Wilson bit his lip, but answered, "No--not yet," with as much
indifference as he could assume. Judge Driscoll had generously left
the law feature out of Wilson's biography which he had furnished
to the twins. Young Tom laughed pleasantly, and said:
"Wilson's a lawyer, gentlemen, but he doesn't practice now."
The sarcasm bit, but Wilson kept himself under control,
and said without passion:
"I don't practice, it is true. It is true that I have never had a case,
and have had to earn a poor living for twenty years as an expert
accountant in a town where I can't get a hold of a set of books to
untangle as often as I should like. But it is also true that I did
myself well for the practice of the law. By the time I was your age,
Tom, I had chosen a profession, and was soon competent to enter upon it."
Tom winced. "I never got a chance to try my hand at it, and I may
never get a chance; and yet if I ever do get it, I shall be found ready,
for I have kept up my law studies all these years."
"That's it; that's good grit! I like to see it. I've a notion to throw
all my business your way. My business and your law practice ought to
make a pretty gay team, Dave," and the young fellow laughed again.
"If you will throw--" Wilson had thought of the girl in Tom's bedroom,
and was going to say, "If you will throw the surreptitious and
disreputable part of your business my way, it may amount to something,"
but thought better of it and said,
"However, this matter doesn't fit well in a general conversation."
"All right, we'll change the subject; I guess you were about
to give me another dig, anyway, so I'm willing to change.
How's the Awful Mystery flourishing these days? Wilson's got a scheme
for driving plain window glass panes out of the market by decorating it
with greasy finger marks, and getting rich by selling it at famine
prices to the crowned heads over in Europe to outfit their palaces with.
Fetch it out, Dave."
Wilson brought three of his glass strips, and said:
"I get the subject to pass the fingers of his right through his hair,
so as to get a little coating of the natural oil on them,
and then press the balls of them on the glass. A fine an delicate
print of the lines in the skin results, and is permanent,
if it doesn't come in contact with something able to rub it off.
You begin, Tom."
"Why, I think you took my finger marks once or twice before."
"Yes, but you were a little boy the last time, only about
twelve years old."
"That's so. Of course, I've changed entirely since then,
and variety is what the crowned heads want, I guess."
He passed his fingers through his crop of short hair, and pressed
them one at a time on the glass. Angelo made a print of his fingers
on another glass, and Luigi followed with a third. Wilson marked the
glasses with names and dates, and put them away. Tom gave one of
his little laughs, and said:
"I thought I wouldn't say anything, but if variety is what you are after,
you have wasted a piece of glass. The hand print of one twin is the
same as the hand print of the fellow twin."
"Well, it's done now, and I like to have them both, anyway,"
said Wilson, returned to his place.
"But look here, Dave," said Tom, you used to tell people's fortunes,
too, when you took their finger marks. Dave's just an all-round genius--
a genius of the first water, gentlemen; a great scientist running to
seed here in this village, a prophet with the kind of honor that
prophets generally get at home--for here they don't give shucks for
his scientifics, and they call his skull a notion factory--hey, Dave,
ain't it so? But never mind, he'll make his mark someday--finger mark,
you know, he-he! But really, you want to let him take a shy at
your palms once; it's worth twice the price of admission or your
money's returned at the door. Why, he'll read your wrinkles as easy
as a book, and not only tell you fifty or sixty things that's going to
happen to you, but fifty or sixty thousand that ain't. Come, Dave,
show the gentlemen what an inspired jack-at-all-science we've got in
this town, and don't know it."
Wilson winced under this nagging and not very courteous chaff,
and the twins suffered with him and for him. They rightly judged,
now, that the best way was to relieve him would be to take the thing
in earnest and treat it with respect, ignoring Tom's rather
overdone raillery; so Luigi said:
"We have seen something of palmistry in our wanderings, and know very
well what astonishing things it can do. If it isn't a science,
and one of the greatest of them too, I don't know what its other
name ought to be. In the Orient--"
Tom looked surprised and incredulous. He said:
"That juggling a science? But really, you ain't serious, are you?"
"Yes, entirely so. Four years ago we had our hands read out to us as
if our plans had been covered with print."
"Well, do you mean to say there was actually anything in it?" asked Tom,
his incredulity beginning to weaken a little.
"There was this much in it," said Angelo: "what was told us
of our characters was minutely exact--we could have not have
bettered it ourselves. Next, two or three memorable things that
have happened to us were laid bare--things which no one present
but ourselves could have known about."
"Why, it's rank sorcery!" exclaimed Tom, who was now becoming very
much interested. "And how did they make out with what was going to
happen to you in the future?"
"On the whole, quite fairly," said Luigi. "Two or three of the most
striking things foretold have happened since; much the most striking
one of all happened within that same year. Some of the minor prophesies
have come true; some of the minor and some of the major ones have not
been fulfilled yet, and of course may never be: still, I should be
more surprised if they failed to arrive than if they didn't."
Tom was entirely sobered, and profoundly impressed. He said, apologetically:
"Dave, I wasn't meaning to belittle that science; I was only chaffing--
chattering, I reckon I'd better say. I wish you would look at their palms.
Come, won't you?"
"Why certainly, if you want me to; but you know I've had no chance to
become an expert, and don't claim to be one. When a past event is
somewhat prominently recorded in the palm, I can generally detect that,
but minor ones often escape me--not always, of course, but often--
but I haven't much confidence in myself when it comes to
reading the future. I am talking as if palmistry was a daily
study with me, but that is not so. I haven't examined half a
dozen hands in the last half dozen years; you see, the people got to
joking about it, and I stopped to let the talk die down. I'll tell you
what we'll do, Count Luigi: I'll make a try at your past,
and if I have any success there--no, on the whole, I'll let
the future alone; that's really the affair of an expert."
He took Luigi's hand. Tom said:
"Wait--don't look yet, Dave! Count Luigi, here's paper and pencil.
Set down that thing that you said was the most striking one that was
foretold to you, and happened less than a year afterward, and give it
to me so I can see if Dave finds it in your hand."
Luigi wrote a line privately, and folded up the piece of paper,
and handed it to Tom, saying:
"I'll tell you when to look at it, if he finds it."
Wilson began to study Luigi's palm, tracing life lines, heart lines,
head lines, and so on, and noting carefully their relations with the
cobweb of finer and more delicate marks and lines that enmeshed them
on all sides; he felt of the fleshy cushion at the base of the thumb
and noted its shape; he felt of the fleshy side of the hand between
the wrist and the base of the little finger and noted its shape also;
he painstakingly examined the fingers, observing their form, proportions,
and natural manner of disposing themselves when in repose.
All this process was watched by the three spectators with
absorbing interest, their heads bent together over Luigi's palm, and nobody
disturbing the stillness with a word. Wilson now entered upon a close
survey of the palm again, and his revelations began.
He mapped out Luigi's character and disposition, his tastes, aversions,
proclivities, ambitions, and eccentricities in a way which sometimes
made Luigi wince and the others laugh, but both twins declared that
the chart was artistically drawn and was correct.
Next, Wilson took up Luigi' history. He proceeded cautiously and
with hesitation now, moving his finger slowly along the great lines
of the palm, and now and then halting it at a "star" or some
such landmark, and examining that neighborhood minutely.
He proclaimed one or two past events, Luigi confirmed his correctness,
and the search went on. Presently Wilson glanced up suddenly with
a surprised expression.
"Here is a record of an incident which you would perhaps not wish me to--"
"Bring it out," said Luigi, good-naturedly. "I promise you
sha'n't embarrass me."
But Wilson still hesitated, and did not seem quite to know what to do.
Then he said:
"I think it is too delicate a matter to--to--I believe I would rather
write it or whisper it to you, and let you decide for yourself whether
you want it talked out or not."
"That will answer," said Luigi. "Write it."
Wilson wrote something on a slip of paper and handed it to Luigi,
who read it to himself and said to Tom:
"Unfold your slip and read it, Mr. Driscoll."
"'IT WAS PROPHESIED THAT I WOULD KILL A MAN. IT CAME TRUE
BEFORE THE YEAR WAS OUT.'"
Tom added, "Great Scott!"
Luigi handed Wilson's paper to Tom, and said:
"Now read this one."
"'YOU HAVE KILLED SOMEONE, BUT WHETHER MAN, WOMAN, OR CHILD,
I DO NOT MAKE OUT.'"
"Caesar's ghost!" commented Tom, with astonishment.
"It beats anything that was ever heard of! Why, a man's own hand is
his deadliest enemy! Just think of that--a man's own hand keeps
a record of the deepest and fatalest secrets of his life, and is
treacherously ready to expose himself to any black-magic stranger
that comes along. But what do you let a person look at your hand for,
with that awful thing printed on it?"
"Oh," said Luigi, reposefully, "I don't mind it. I killed the man
for good reasons, and I don't regret it."
"What were the reasons?"
"Well, he needed killing."
"I'll tell you why he did it, since he won't say himself," said Angelo,
warmly. "He did it to save my life, that's what he did it for.
So it was a noble act, and not a thing to be hid in the dark."
"So it was, so it was," said Wilson. "To do such a thing to save a
brother's life is a great and fine action."
"Now come," said Luigi, "it is very pleasant to hear you say
these things, but for unselfishness, or heroism, or magnanimity,
the circumstances won't stand scrutiny. You overlook one detail;
suppose I hadn't saved Angelo's life, what would have become of mine?
If I had let the man kill him, wouldn't he have killed me, too?
I saved my own life, you see."
"Yes, that is your way of talking," said Angelo, "but I know you--
I don't believe you thought of yourself at all. I keep that weapon
yet that Luigi killed the man with, and I'll show it to you sometime.
That incident makes it interesting, and it had a history before it
came into Luigi's hands which adds to its interest. It was given to
Luigi by a great Indian prince, the Gaikowar of Baroda, and it had been
in his family two or three centuries. It killed a good many disagreeable
people who troubled the hearthstone at one time or another. It isn't much
too look at, except it isn't shaped like other knives, or dirks,
or whatever it may be called--here, I'll draw it for you." He took a
sheet of paper and made a rapid sketch. "There it is--a broad and
murderous blade, with edges like a razor for sharpness.
The devices engraved on it are the ciphers or names of its long
line of possessors--I had Luigi's name added in Roman letters
myself with our coat of arms, as you see. You notice what a
curious handle the thing has. It is solid ivory, polished like a mirror,
and is four or five inches long--round, and as thick as a
large man's wrist, with the end squared off flat, for your thumb
to rest on; for you grasp it, with your thumb resting on the blunt end--
so--and lift it along and strike downward. The Gaikowar showed us how
the thing was done when he gave it to Luigi, and before that
night was ended, Luigi had used the knife, and the Gaikowar was a man
short by reason of it. The sheath is magnificently ornamented with
gems of great value. You will find a sheath more worth looking at
than the knife itself, of course."
Tom said to himself:
"It's lucky I came here. I would have sold that knife for a song;
I supposed the jewels were glass."
"But go on; don't stop," said Wilson. "Our curiosity is up now,
to hear about the homicide. Tell us about that."
"Well, briefly, the knife was to blame for that, all around.
A native servant slipped into our room in the palace in the night,
to kill us and steal the knife on account of the fortune encrusted
on its sheath, without a doubt. Luigi had it under his pillow;
we were in bed together. There was a dim night-light burning.
I was asleep, but Luigi was awake, and he thought he detected a
vague form nearing the bed. He slipped the knife out of the sheath
and was ready and unembarrassed by hampering bedclothes,
for the weather was hot and we hadn't any. Suddenly that native rose
at the bedside, and bent over me with his right hand lifted and a
dirk in it aimed at my throat; but Luigi grabbed his wrist,
pulled him downward, and drove his own knife into the man's neck.
That is the whole story."
Wilson and Tom drew deep breaths, and after some general chat
about the tragedy, Pudd'nhead said, taking Tom's hand:
"Now, Tom, I've never had a look at your palms, as it happens;
perhaps you've got some little questionable privacies that need--hel-lo!"
Tom had snatched away his hand, and was looking a good deal confused.
"Why, he's blushing!" said Luigi.
Tom darted an ugly look at him, and said sharply:
"Well, if I am, it ain't because I'm a murderer!" Luigi's dark
face flushed, but before he could speak or move, Tom added with
anxious haste: "Oh, I beg a thousand pardons. I didn't mean that;
it was out before I thought, and I'm very, very sorry--you must forgive me!"
Wilson came to the rescue, and smoothed things down as well as he could;
and in fact was entirely successful as far as the twins were concerned,
for they felt sorrier for the affront put upon him by his guest's
outburst of ill manners than for the insult offered to Luigi.
But the success was not so pronounced with the offender. Tom tried to
seem at his ease, and he went through the motions fairly well,
but at bottom he felt resentful toward all the three witnesses of
his exhibition; in fact, he felt so annoyed at them for having
witnessed it and noticed it that he almost forgot to feel annoyed
at himself for placing it before them. However, something presently
happened which made him almost comfortable, and brought him nearly back
to a state of charity and friendliness. This was a little spat between
the twins; not much of a spat, but still a spat; and before they got
far with it, they were in a decided condition of irritation while
pretending to be actuated by more respectable motives. By his help
the fire got warmed up to the blazing point, and he might have had the
happiness of seeing the flames show up in another moment, but for the
interruption of a knock on the door--an interruption which fretted him
as much as it gratified Wilson. Wilson opened the door.
The visitor was a good-natured, ignorant, energetic middle-aged
Irishman named John Buckstone, who was a great politician in a
small way, and always took a large share in public matters of
every sort. One of the town's chief excitements, just now, was over
the matter of rum. There was a strong rum party and a strong
anti-rum party. Buckstone was training with the rum party, and he
had been sent to hunt up the twins and invite them to attend a
mass meeting of that faction. He delivered his errand, and said
the clans were already gathering in the big hall over the market house.
Luigi accepted the invitation cordially. Angelo less cordially,
since he disliked crowds, and did not drink the powerful intoxicants
of America. In fact, he was even a teetotaler sometimes--
when it was judicious to be one.
The twins left with Buckstone, and Tom Driscoll joined the
company with them uninvited.
In the distance, one could see a long wavering line of
torches drifting down the main street, and could hear the
throbbing of the bass drum, the clash of cymbals, the squeaking
of a fife or two, and the faint roar of remote hurrahs. The tail
end of this procession was climbing the market house stairs when
the twins arrived in its neighborhood; when they reached the hall,
it was full of people, torches, smoke, noise, and enthusiasm.
They were conducted to the platform by Buckstone--Tom Driscoll
still following--and were delivered to the chairman in the midst
of a prodigious explosion of welcome. When the noise had moderated
a little, the chair proposed that "our illustrious guests be at
once elected, by complimentary acclamation, to membership in our
ever-glorious organization, the paradise of the free and the perdition
of the slave."
This eloquent discharge opened the floodgates of enthusiasm again,
and the election was carried with thundering unanimity. Then arose
a storm of cries:
"Wet them down! Wet them down! Give them a drink!"
Glasses of whisky were handed to the twins. Luigi waves his aloft,
then brought it to his lips; but Angelo set his down.
There was another storm of cries.
"What's the matter with the other one?" "What is the blond one
going back on us for?" "Explain! Explain!"
The chairman inquired, and then reported:
"We have made an unfortunate mistake, gentlemen. I find that the
Count Angelo Capello is opposed to our creed--is a teetotaler, in fact,
and was not intending to apply for membership with us. He desires
that we reconsider the vote by which he was elected. What is the
pleasure of the house?"
There was a general burst of laughter, plentifully accented with
whistlings and catcalls, but the energetic use of the gavel
presently restored something like order. Then a man spoke from
the crowd, and said that while he was very sorry that the mistake
had been made, it would not be possible to rectify it at the
present meeting. According to the bylaws, it must go over to the
next regular meeting for action. He would not offer a motion, as
none was required. He desired to apologize to the gentlemen in
the name of the house, and begged to assure him that as far as it
might lie in the power of the Sons of Liberty, his temporary
membership in the order would be made pleasant to him.
This speech was received with great applause, mixed with cries of:
"That's the talk! "He's a good fellow, anyway, if he _is_ a teetotaler!"
"Drink his health!" "Give him a rouser, and no heeltaps!"
Glasses were handed around, and everybody on the platform
drank Angelo's health, while the house bellowed forth in song:
For he's a jolly good fel-low,
For he's a jolly good fel-low,
For he's a jolly good fe-el-low,
Which nobody can deny.
Tom Driscoll drank. It was his second glass, for he had drunk
Angelo's the moment that Angelo had set it down. The two drinks
made him very merry--almost idiotically so, and he began to take a
most lively and prominent part in the proceedings, particularly in
the music and catcalls and side remarks.
The chairman was still standing at the front, the twins at his side.
The extraordinarily close resemblance of the brothers to each other
suggested a witticism to Tom Driscoll, and just as the chairman began
a speech he skipped forward and said, with an air of tipsy confidence,
to the audience:
"Boys, I move that he keeps still and lets this human philopena snip
you out a speech."
The descriptive aptness of the phrase caught the house, and a mighty
burst of laughter followed.
Luigi's southern blood leaped to the boiling point in a moment under
the sharp humiliation of this insult delivered in the presence of
four hundred strangers. It was not in the young man's nature to
let the matter pass, or to delay the squaring of the account.
He took a couple of strides and halted behind the unsuspecting joker.
Then he drew back and delivered a kick of such titanic vigor that it
lifted Tom clear over the footlights and landed him on the heads of
the front row of the Sons of Liberty.
Even a sober person does not like to have a human being emptied on him
when he is not going any harm; a person who is not sober cannot endure
such an attention at all. The nest of Sons of Liberty that Driscoll
landed in had not a sober bird in it; in fact there was probably not
an entirely sober one in the auditorium. Driscoll was promptly and
indignantly flung on the heads of Sons in the next row, and these Sons
passed him on toward the rear, and then immediately began to pummel the
front row Sons who had passed him to them. This course was strictly
followed by bench after bench as Driscoll traveled in his tumultuous
and airy flight toward the door; so he left behind him an ever-lengthening
wake of raging and plunging and fighting and swearing humanity.
Down went group after group of torches, and presently above the
deafening clatter of the gavel, roar of angry voices, and crash of
succumbing benches, rose the paralyzing cry of "_fire!_"
The fighting ceased instantly; the cursing ceased; for one distinctly
defined moment, there was a dead hush, a motionless calm, where the
tempest had been; then with one impulse the multitude awoke to life
and energy again, and went surging and struggling and swaying,
this way and that, its outer edges melting away through windows and
doors and gradually lessening the pressure and relieving the mass.
The fireboys were never on hand so suddenly before; for there was
no distance to go this time, their quarters being in the rear end
of the market house, There was an engine company and a
hook-and-ladder company. Half of each was composed of rummies and
the other half of anti-rummies, after the moral and political
share-and-share-alike fashion of the frontier town of the period.
Enough anti-rummies were loafing in quarters to man the engine
and the ladders. In two minutes they had their red shirts and helmets on--
they never stirred officially in unofficial costume--and as the
mass meeting overhead smashed through the long row of windows and
poured out upon the roof of the arcade, the deliverers were ready
for them with a powerful stream of water, which washed some of them
off the roof and nearly drowned the rest. But water was preferable
to fire, and still the stampede from the windows continued, and still the
pitiless drenching assailed it until the building was empty;
then the fireboys mounted to the hall and flooded it with water enough
to annihilate forty times as much fire as there was there;
for a village fire company does not often get a chance to show off,
and so when it does get a chance, it makes the most of it.
Such citizens of that village as were of a thoughtful and judicious
temperament did not insure against fire; they insured against the
The Shame of Judge Driscoll
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear--not absence of fear.
Except a creature be part coward, it is not a compliment to say
it is brave; it is merely a loose misapplication of the word.
Consider the flea!--incomparably the bravest of all the creatures of God,
if ignorance of fear were courage. Whether you are asleep or awake he
will attack you, caring nothing for the fact that in bulk and strength
you are to him as are the massed armies of the earth to a sucking child;
he lives both day and night and all days and nights in the very lap
of peril and the immediate presence of death, and yet is no more
afraid than is the man who walks the streets of a city that was
threatened by an earthquake ten centuries before. When we speak
of Clive, Nelson, and Putnam as men who "didn't know what fear was,"
we ought always to add the flea--and put him at the head of the procession.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
Judge Driscoll was in bed and asleep by ten o'clock on Friday night,
and he was up and gone a-fishing before daylight in the morning with
his friend Pembroke Howard. These two had been boys together in
Virginia when that state still ranked as the chief and most imposing
member of the Union, and they still coupled the proud and affectionate
adjective "old" with her name when they spoke of her.
In Missouri a recognized superiority attached to any person who
hailed from Old Virginia; and this superiority was exalted to
supremacy when a person of such nativity could also prove descent
from the First Families of that great commonwealth. The Howards and
Driscolls were of this aristocracy. In their eyes, it was a nobility.
It had its unwritten laws, and they were as clearly defined and as
strict as any that could be found among the printed statues of the land.
The F.F.V. was born a gentleman; his highest duty in life was to
watch over that great inheritance and keep it unsmirched.
He must keep his honor spotless. Those laws were his chart;
his course was marked out on it; if he swerved from it by so much as
half a point of the compass, it meant shipwreck to his honor;
that is to say, degradation from his rank as a gentleman.
These laws required certain things of him which his religion might forbid:
then his religion must yield--the laws could not be relaxed to
accommodate religions or anything else. Honor stood first;
and the laws defined what it was and wherein it differed in certain
details from honor as defined by church creeds and by the social laws
and customs of some of the minor divisions of the globe that had got
crowded out when the sacred boundaries of Virginia were staked out.
If Judge Driscoll was the recognized first citizen of Dawson's Landing,
Pembroke Howard was easily its recognized second citizen.
He was called "the great lawyer"--an earned title. He and Driscoll
were of the same age--a year or two past sixty.
Although Driscoll was a freethinker and Howard a strong and
determined Presbyterian, their warm intimacy suffered no
impairment in consequence. They were men whose opinions were
their own property and not subject to revision and amendment,
suggestion or criticism, by anybody, even their friends.
The day's fishing finished, they came floating downstream in their skiff,
talking national politics and other high matters, and presently met
a skiff coming up from town, with a man in it who said:
"I reckon you know one of the new twins gave your nephew a
kicking last night, Judge?"
"Gave him a kicking."
The old judge's lips paled, and his eyes began to flame. He choked with
anger for a moment, then he got out what he was trying to say:
"Well--well--go on! Give me the details!"
The man did it. At the finish the judge was silent a minute,
turning over in his mind the shameful picture of Tom's flight over
the footlights; then he said, as if musing aloud,
"H'm--I don't understand it. I was asleep at home. He didn't wake me.
Thought he was competent to manage his affair without my help, I reckon."
His face lit up with pride and pleasure at that thought, and he said
with a cheery complacency, "I like that--it's the true old blood--
Howard smiled an iron smile, and nodded his head approvingly.
Then the news-bringer spoke again.
"But Tom beat the twin on the trial."
The judge looked at the man wonderingly, and said:
"The trial? What trial?"
"Why, Tom had him up before Judge Robinson for assault and battery."
The old man shrank suddenly together like one who has received a
death stroke. Howard sprang for him as he sank forward in a swoon,
and took him in his arms, and bedded him on his back in the boat.
He sprinkled water in his face, and said to the startled visitor:
"Go, now--don't let him come to and find you here. You see what an
effect your heedless speech has had; you ought to have been more
considerate than to blurt out such a cruel piece of slander as that."
"I'm right down sorry I did it now, Mr. Howard, and I wouldn't
have done it if I had thought; but it ain't slander;
it's perfectly true, just as I told him."
He rowed away. Presently the old judge came out of his faint and
looked up piteously into the sympathetic face that was bent over him.
"Say it ain't true, Pembroke; tell me it ain't true!" he said in a weak voice.
There was nothing weak in the deep organ tones that responded:
"You know it's a lie as well as I do, old friend. He is of
the best blood of the Old Dominion."
"God bless you for saying it!" said the old gentleman, fervently.
"Ah, Pembroke, it was such a blow!"
Howard stayed by his friend, and saw him home, and entered the house
with him. It was dark, and past supper-time, but the judge was
not thinking of supper; he was eager to hear the slander refuted
from headquarters, and as eager to have Howard hear it, too.
Tom was sent for, and he came immediately. He was bruised and lame,
and was not a happy-looking object. His uncle made him sit down, and said:
"We have been hearing about your adventure, Tom, with a handsome lie
added for embellishment. Now pulverize that lie to dust!
What measures have you taken? How does the thing stand?"
Tom answered guilelessly: "It don't stand at all; it's all over.
I had him up in court and beat him. Pudd'nhead Wilson defended him--
first case he ever had, and lost it. The judge fined the miserable
hound five dollars for the assault."
Howard and the judge sprang to their feet with the opening sentence--
why, neither knew; then they stood gazing vacantly at each other.
Howard stood a moment, then sat mournfully down without saying anything.
The judge's wrath began to kindle, and he burst out:
"You cur! You scum! You vermin! Do you mean to tell me that blood
of my race has suffered a blow and crawled to a court of law about it?
Tom's head drooped, and he answered with an eloquent silence.
His uncle stared at him with a mixed expression of amazement and
shame and incredulity that was sorrowful to see. At last he said:
"Which of the twins was it?"
"You have challenged him?"
"N--no," hesitated Tom, turning pale.
"You will challenge him tonight. Howard will carry it."
Tom began to turn sick, and to show it. He turned his hat round and
round in his hand, his uncle glowering blacker and blacker upon him
as the heavy seconds drifted by; then at last he began to stammer,
and said piteously:
"Oh, please, don't ask me to do it, uncle! He is a murderous devil--
I never could--I--I'm afraid of him!"
Old Driscoll's mouth opened and closed three times before he
could get it to perform its office; then he stormed out:
"A coward in my family! A Driscoll a coward! Oh, what have I done
to deserve this infamy!" He tottered to his secretary in the corner,
repeated that lament again and again in heartbreaking tones,
and got out of a drawer a paper, which he slowly tore to bits,
scattering the bits absently in his track as he walked up
and down the room, still grieving and lamenting. At last he said:
"There it is, shreds and fragments once more--my will. Once more you
have forced me to disinherit you, you base son of a most noble father!
Leave my sight! Go--before I spit on you!"
The young man did not tarry. Then the judge turned to Howard:
"You will be my second, old friend?"
"There is pen and paper. Draft the cartel, and lose no time."
"The Count shall have it in his hands in fifteen minutes," said Howard.
Tom was very heavyhearted. His appetite was gone with his property
and his self-respect. He went out the back way and wandered down the
obscure lane grieving, and wondering if any course of future conduct,
however discreet and carefully perfected and watched over,
could win back his uncle's favor and persuade him to reconstruct once
more that generous will which had just gone to ruin before his eyes.
He finally concluded that it could. He said to himself that he had
accomplished this sort of triumph once already, and that what had been
done once could be done again. He would set about it. He would bend
every energy to the task, and he would score that triumph once more,
cost what it might to his convenience, limit as it might his
frivolous and liberty-loving life.
"To begin," he says to himself, "I'll square up with the proceeds of
my raid, and then gambling has got to be stopped--and stopped short off.
It's the worst vice I've got--from my standpoint, anyway,
because it's the one he can most easily find out, through the impatience
of my creditors. He thought it expensive to have to pay two hundred
dollars to them for me once. Expensive--_that!_ Why, it cost me
the whole of his fortune--but, of course, he never thought of that;
some people can't think of any but their own side of a case.
If he had known how deep I am in now, the will would have gone to pot
without waiting for a duel to help. Three hundred dollars!
It's a pile! But he'll never hear of it, I'm thankful to say.
The minute I've cleared it off, I'm safe; and I'll never touch
a card again. Anyway, I won't while he lives, I make oath to that.
I'm entering on my last reform--I know it--yes, and I'll win;
but after that, if I ever slip again I'm gone."
Tom Stares at Ruin
When I reflect upon the number of disagreeable people who I know
have gone to a better world, I am moved to lead a different life.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
October. This is one of the peculiarly dangerous months to speculate
in stocks in. The others are July, January, September, April,
November, May, March, June, December, August, and February.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
Thus mournfully communing with himself, Tom moped along the lane past
Pudd'nhead Wilson's house, and still on and on between fences enclosing
vacant country on each hand till he neared the haunted house,
then he came moping back again, with many sighs and heavy with trouble.
He sorely wanted cheerful company. Rowena! His heart gave a bound
at the thought, but the next thought quieted it--the detested twins
would be there.
He was on the inhabited side of Wilson's house, and now as
he approached it, he noticed that the sitting room was lighted.
This would do; others made him feel unwelcome sometimes, but Wilson
never failed in courtesy toward him, and a kindly courtesy does at least
save one's feelings, even if it is not professing to stand for a welcome.
Wilson heard footsteps at his threshold, then the clearing of a throat.
"It's that fickle-tempered, dissipated young goose--poor devil,
he find friends pretty scarce today, likely, after the disgrace of
carrying a personal assault case into a law-court."
A dejected knock. "Come in!"
Tom entered, and dropped into a chair, without saying anything.
Wilson said kindly:
"Why, my boy, you look desolate. Don't take it so hard.
Try and forget you have been kicked."
"Oh, dear," said Tom, wretchedly, "it's not that, Pudd'nhead--
it's not that.. It's a thousand times worse than that--oh, yes,
a million times worse."
"Why, Tom, what do you mean? Has Rowena--"
"Flung me? _No_, but the old man has."
Wilson said to himself, "Aha!" and thought of the mysterious girl
in the bedroom. "The Driscolls have been making discoveries!"
Then he said aloud, gravely:
"Tom, there are some kinds of dissipation which--"
"Oh, shucks, this hasn't got anything to do with dissipation.
He wanted me to challenge that derned Italian savage,
and I wouldn't do it."
"Yes, of course he would do that," said Wilson in a meditative
matter-of-course way, "but the thing that puzzled me was,
why he didn't look to that last night, for one thing,
and why he let you carry such a matter into a court of law at all,
either before the duel or after it. It's no place for it.
It was not like him. I couldn't understand it. How did it happen?"
"It happened because he didn't know anything about it. He
was asleep when I got home last night."
"And you didn't wake him? Tom, is that possible?"
Tom was not getting much comfort here. He fidgeted a moment, then said:
"I didn't choose to tell him--that's all. He was going a-fishing
before dawn, with Pembroke Howard, and if I got the twins into
the common calaboose--and I thought sure I could--I never dreamed
of their slipping out on a paltry fine for such an outrageous offense--
well, once in the calaboose they would be disgraced, and uncle wouldn't
want any duels with that sort of characters, and wouldn't allow any.
"Tom, I am ashamed of you! I don't see how you could treat
your good old uncle so. I am a better friend of his than you are;
for if I had known the circumstances I would have kept that case out
of court until I got word to him and let him have the gentleman's chance."
"You would?" exclaimed Tom, with lively surprise. "And it your
first case! And you know perfectly well there never would have _been_
any case if he had got that chance, don't you? And you'd have finished
your days a pauper nobody, instead of being an actually launched and
recognized lawyer today. And you would really have done that, would you?"
Tom looked at him a moment or two, then shook his head sorrowfully and said:
"I believe you--upon my word I do. I don't know why I do, but I do.
Pudd'nhead Wilson, I think you're the biggest fool I ever saw."
"Don't mention it."
"Well, he has been requiring you to fight the Italian,
and you have refused. You degenerate remnant of an honorable line!
I'm thoroughly ashamed of you, Tom!"
"Oh, that's nothing! I don't care for anything, now that the will's
torn up again."
"Tom, tell me squarely--didn't he find any fault with you for anything
but those two things--carrying the case into court and refusing to fight?"
He watched the young fellow's face narrowly, but it was
entirely reposeful, and so also was the voice that answered:
"No, he didn't find any other fault with me. If he had had any to find,
he would have begun yesterday, for he was just in the humor for it.
He drove that jack-pair around town and showed them the sights,
and when he came home he couldn't find his father's old silver watch
that don't keep time and he thinks so much of, and couldn't remember
what he did with it three or four days ago when he saw it last,
and when I suggested that it probably wasn't lost but stolen,
it put him in a regular passion, and he said I was a fool--
which convinced me, without any trouble, that that was just what he
was afraid _had_ happened, himself, but did not want to believe it,
because lost things stand a better chance of being found again
than stolen ones."
"Whe-ew!" whistled Wilson. "Score another one the list."
"Yes, theft. That watch isn't lost, it's stolen. There's been another
raid on the town--and just the same old mysterious sort of thing
that has happened once before, as you remember."
"You don't mean it!"
"It's as sure as you are born! Have you missed anything yourself?"
"No. That is, I did miss a silver pencil case that Aunt Mary Pratt
gave me last birthday--"
"You'll find it stolen--that's what you'll find."
"No, I sha'n't; for when I suggested theft about the watch and got
such a rap, I went and examined my room, and the pencil case was missing,
but it was only mislaid, and I found it again."
"You are sure you missed nothing else?"
"Well, nothing of consequence. I missed a small plain gold ring worth
two or three dollars, but that will turn up. I'll look again."
"In my opinion you'll not find it. There's been a raid, I tell you.
Mr. Justice Robinson entered, followed by Buckstone and
the town constable, Jim Blake. They sat down, and after some
wandering and aimless weather-conversation Wilson said:
"By the way, We've just added another to the list of thefts, maybe two.
Judge Driscoll's old silver watch is gone, and Tom here
has missed a gold ring."
"Well, it is a bad business," said the justice, "and gets worse
the further it goes. The Hankses, the Dobsons, the Pilligrews,
the Ortons, the Grangers, the Hales, the Fullers, the Holcombs,
in fact everybody that lives around about Patsy Cooper's had been
robbed of little things like trinkets and teaspoons and suchlike
small valuables that are easily carried off. It's perfectly plain
that the thief took advantage of the reception at Patsy Cooper's when
all the neighbors were in her house and all their niggers hanging around
her fence for a look at the show, to raid the vacant houses undisturbed.
Patsy is miserable about it; miserable on account of the neighbors,
and particularly miserable on account of her foreigners, of course;
so miserable on their account that she hasn't any room to worry
about her own little losses."
"It's the same old raider," said Wilson. "I suppose there isn't
any doubt about that."
"Constable Blake doesn't think so."
"No, you're wrong there," said Blake. "The other times it was a man;
there was plenty of signs of that, as we know, in the profession,
thought we never got hands on him; but this time it's a woman."
Wilson thought of the mysterious girl straight off. She was always
in his mind now. But she failed him again. Blake continued:
"She's a stoop-shouldered old woman with a covered basket on her arm,
in a black veil, dressed in mourning. I saw her going aboard
the ferryboat yesterday. Lives in Illinois, I reckon; but I don't care
where she lives, I'm going to get her--she can make herself sure of that."
"What makes you think she's the thief?"
"Well, there ain't any other, for one thing; and for another,
some nigger draymen that happened to be driving along saw her coming
out of or going into houses, and told me so--and it just happens that
they was _robbed_, every time."
It was granted that this was plenty good enough circumstantial evidence.
A pensive silence followed, which lasted some moments, then Wilson said:
"There's one good thing, anyway. She can't either pawn or sell
Count Luigi's costly Indian dagger."
"My!" said Tom. "Is _that_ gone?"
"Well, that was a haul! But why can't she pawn it or sell it?"
"Because when the twins went home from the Sons of Liberty meeting
last night, news of the raid was sifting in from everywhere,
and Aunt Patsy was in distress to know if they had lost anything.
They found that the dagger was gone, and they notified the police
and pawnbrokers everywhere. It was a great haul, yes, but
the old woman won't get anything out of it, because she'll get caught."
"Did they offer a reward?" asked Buckstone.
"Yes, five hundred dollars for the knife, and five hundred more
for the thief."
"What a leather-headed idea!" exclaimed the constable.
"The thief das'n't go near them, nor send anybody.
Whoever goes is going to get himself nabbed,
for their ain't any pawnbroker that's going to lose the chance to--"
If anybody had noticed Tom's face at that time, the gray-green color
of it might have provoked curiosity; but nobody did.
He said to himself: "I'm gone! I never can square up; the rest of
the plunder won't pawn or sell for half of the bill. Oh, I know it--
I'm gone, I'm gone--and this time it's for good. Oh, this is awful--
I don't know what to do, nor which way to turn!"
"Softly, softly," said Wilson to Blake. "I planned their scheme
for them at midnight last night, and it was all finished up shipshape
by two this morning. They'll get their dagger back,
and then I'll explain to you how the thing was done."
There were strong signs of a general curiosity, and Buckstone said:
"Well, you have whetted us up pretty sharp. Wilson, and I'm free
to say that if you don't mind telling us in confidence--"
"Oh, I'd as soon tell as not, Buckstone, but as long as the
twins and I agreed to say nothing about it, we must let it stand so.
But you can take my word for it, you won't be kept waiting three days.
Somebody will apply for that reward pretty promptly,
and I'll show you the thief and the dagger both very soon afterward."
The constable was disappointed, and also perplexed. He said:
"It may all be--yes, and I hope it will, but I'm blamed if I
can see my way through it. It's too many for yours truly."
The subject seemed about talked out. Nobody seemed to have
anything further to offer. After a silence the justice of the
peace informed Wilson that he and Buckstone and the constable had
come as a committee, on the part of the Democratic party, to ask him
to run for mayor--for the little town was about to become a city and
the first charter election was approaching. It was the first attention
which Wilson had ever received at the hands of any party;
it was a sufficiently humble one, but it was a recognition of his debut
into the town's life and activities at last; it was a step upward,
and he was deeply gratified. He accepted, and the committee departed,
followed by young Tom.
Roxana Insists Upon Reform
The true Southern watermelon is a boon apart, and not to be mentioned
with commoner things. It is chief of this world's luxuries,
king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth.
When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat. It was not a
Southern watermelon that Eve took: we know it because she repented.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
About the time that Wilson was bowing the committee out,
Pembroke Howard was entering the next house to report.
He found the old judge sitting grim and straight in his chair, waiting.
"Well, Howard--the news?"
"The best in the world."
"Accepts, does he?" and the light of battle gleamed joyously
in the Judge's eye.
"Accepts? Why he jumped at it."
"Did, did he? Now that's fine--that's very fine. I like that.
When is it to be?"
"Now! Straight off! Tonight! An admirable fellow--admirable!"
"Admirable? He's a darling! Why, it's an honor as well as
a pleasure to stand up before such a man. Come--off with you!
Go and arrange everything--and give him my heartiest compliments.
A rare fellow, indeed; an admirable fellow, as you have said!"
"I'll have him in the vacant stretch between Wilson's and
the haunted house within the hour, and I'll bring my own pistols."
Judge Driscoll began to walk the floor in a state of pleased excitement;
but presently he stopped, and began to think--began to think of Tom.
Twice he moved toward the secretary, and twice he turned away again;
but finally he said:
"This may be my last night in the world--I must not take the chance.
He is worthless and unworthy, but it is largely my fault.
He was entrusted to me by my brother on his dying bed,
and I have indulged him to his hurt, instead of training him up severely,
and making a man of him, I have violated my trust, and I must not add
the sin of desertion to that. I have forgiven him once already,
and would subject him to a long and hard trial before forgiving
him again, if I could live; but I must not run that risk.
No, I must restore the will. But if I survive the duel,
I will hide it away, and he will not know, and I will not tell him
until he reforms, and I see that his reformation is going to be permanent."
He redrew the will, and his ostensible nephew was heir to a
fortune again. As he was finishing his task, Tom, wearied with
another brooding tramp, entered the house and went tiptoeing past
the sitting room door. He glanced in, and hurried on, for the sight
of his uncle was nothing but terrors for him tonight. But his uncle
was writing! That was unusual at this late hour. What could he
be writing? A chill of anxiety settled down upon Tom's heart.
Did that writing concern him? He was afraid so. He reflected that
when ill luck begins, it does not come in sprinkles, but in showers.
He said he would get a glimpse of that document or know the reason why.
He heard someone coming, and stepped out of sight and hearing.
It was Pembroke Howard. What could be hatching?
Howard said, with great satisfaction:
"Everything's right and ready. He's gone to the battleground with
his second and the surgeon--also with his brother. I've arranged it
all with Wilson--Wilson's his second. We are to have three shots apiece."
"Good! How is the moon?"
"Bright as day, nearly. Perfect, for the distance--fifteen yards.
No wind--not a breath; hot and still."
"All good; all first-rate. Here, Pembroke, read this, and witness it."
Pembroke read and witnessed the will, then gave the old man's hand
a hearty shake and said:
"Now that's right, York--but I knew you would do it. You couldn't
leave that poor chap to fight along without means or profession,
with certain defeat before him, and I knew you wouldn't, for his
father's sake if not for his own."
"For his dead father's sake, I couldn't, I know; for poor Percy--
but you know what Percy was to me. But mind--Tom is not to know
of this unless I fall tonight."
"I understand. I'll keep the secret."
The judge put the will away, and the two started for the battleground.
In another minute the will was in Tom's hands.
His misery vanished, his feelings underwent a tremendous revulsion.
He put the will carefully back in its place, and spread his mouth
and swung his hat once, twice, three times around his head,
in imitation of three rousing huzzahs, no sound issuing from his lips.
He fell to communing with himself excitedly and joyously,
but every now and then he let off another volley of dumb hurrahs.
He said to himself: "I've got the fortune again, but I'll not let on
that I know about it. And this time I'm gong to hang on to it.
I take no more risks. I'll gamble no more, I'll drink no more,
because--well, because I'll not go where there is any of that sort of
thing going on, again. It's the sure way, and the only sure way;
I might have thought of that sooner--well, yes, if I had wanted to.
But now--dear me, I've had a scare this time, and I'll take
no more chances. Not a single chance more. Land! I persuaded myself
this evening that I could fetch him around without any great amount
of effort, but I've been getting more and more heavyhearted and
doubtful straight along, ever since. If he tells me about this thing,
all right; but if he doesn't, I sha'n't let on. I--well, I'd like to tell
Pudd'nhead Wilson, but--no, I'll think about that; perhaps I won't."
He whirled off another dead huzzah, and said, "I'm reformed,
and this time I'll stay so, sure!"
He was about to close with a final grand silent demonstration,
when he suddenly recollected that Wilson had put it out of his power
to pawn or sell the Indian knife, and that he was once more in
awful peril of exposure by his creditors for that reason.
His joy collapsed utterly, and he turned away and moped toward
the door moaning and lamenting over the bitterness of his luck.
He dragged himself upstairs, and brooded in his room a long time,
disconsolate and forlorn, with Luigi's Indian knife for a text.
At last he sighed and said:
"When I supposed these stones were glass and this ivory bone,
the thing hadn't any interest for me because it hadn't any value,
and couldn't help me out of my trouble. But now--why, now it is
full of interest; yes, and of a sort to break a body's heart.
It's a bag of gold that has turned to dirt and ashes in my hands.
It could save me, and save me so easily, and yet I've got to go to ruin.
It's like drowning with a life preserver in my reach. All the hard luck
comes to me, and all the good luck goes to other people--
Pudd'nhead Wilson, for instance; even his career has got a sort of
a little start at last, and what has he done to deserve it,
I should like to know? Yes, he has opened his own road,
but he isn't content with that, but must block mine.
It's a sordid, selfish world, and I wish I was out of it."
He allowed the light of the candle to play upon the jewels of the sheath,
but the flashings and sparklings had no charm for his eye;
they were only just so many pangs to his heart. "I must not say
anything to Roxy about this thing," he said. "She is too daring.
She would be for digging these stones out and selling them, and then--
why, she would be arrested and the stones traced, and then--"
The thought made him quake, and he hid the knife away, trembling
all over and glancing furtively about, like a criminal who fancies that
the accuser is already at hand.
Should he try to sleep? Oh, no, sleep was not for him; his trouble
was too haunting, too afflicting for that. He must have somebody
to mourn with. He would carry his despair to Roxy.
He had heard several distant gunshots, but that sort of thing
was not uncommon, and they had made no impression upon him.
He went out at the back door, and turned westward. He passed
Wilson's house and proceeded along the lane, and presently saw
several figures approaching Wilson's place through the vacant lots.
These were the duelists returning from the fight; he thought
he recognized them, but as he had no desire for white people's company,
he stooped down behind the fence until they were out of his way.
Roxy was feeling fine. She said:
"Whah was you, child? Warn't you in it?"
"In de duel."
"Duel? Has there been a duel?"
"Co'se dey has. De ole Jedge has be'n havin' a duel wid one o' dem twins."
"Great Scott!" Then he added to himself: "That's what made him remake
the will; he thought he might get killed, and it softened him toward me.
And that's what he and Howard were so busy about. . . .
Oh dear, if the twin had only killed him, I should be out of my--"
"What is you mumblin' 'bout, Chambers? Whah was you?
Didn't you know dey was gwine to be a duel?"
"No, I didn't. The old man tried to get me to fight one with Count Luigi,
but he didn't succeed, so I reckon he concluded to patch up
the family honor himself."
He laughed at the idea, and went rambling on with a detailed account
of his talk with the judge, and how shocked and ashamed the judge was
to find that he had a coward in his family. He glanced up at last,
and got a shock himself. Roxana's bosom was heaving with
suppressed passion, and she was glowering down upon
him with measureless contempt written in her face.
"En you refuse' to fight a man dat kicked you, 'stid o' jumpin'
at de chance! En you ain't got no mo' feelin' den to come
en tell me, dat fetched sich a po' lowdown ornery rabbit into
de worl'! Pah! it make me sick! It's de nigger in you,
dat's what it is. Thirty-one parts o' you is white, en on'y one
part nigger, en dat po' little one part is yo' _soul_.
'Tain't wuth savin'; tain't wuth totin' out on a shovel en throwin'
en de gutter. You has disgraced yo' birth. What would yo' pa
think o' you? It's enough to make him turn in his grave.
The last three sentences stung Tom into a fury, and he said to
himself that if his father were only alive and in reach of assassination
his mother would soon find that he had a very clear notion of the
size of his indebtedness to that man, and was willing to pay it
up in full, and would do it too, even at risk of his life;
but he kept this thought to himself; that was safest in his
mother's present state.
"Whatever has come o' yo' Essex blood? Dat's what I can't understan'.
En it ain't on'y jist Essex blood dat's in you, not by a long sight--
'deed it ain't! My great-great-great-gran'father en yo'
great-great-great-great-gran'father was Ole Cap'n John Smith,
de highest blood dat Ole Virginny ever turned out, en _his_
great-great-gran'mother, or somers along back dah, was Pocahontas
de Injun queen, en her husbun' was a nigger king outen Africa--
en yit here you is, a slinkin' outen a duel en disgracin' our
whole line like a ornery lowdown hound! Yes, it's de nigger in you!"
She sat down on her candle box and fell into a reverie.
Tom did not disturb her; he sometimes lacked prudence, but it was not
in circumstances of this kind, Roxana's storm went gradually down,
but it died hard, and even when it seemed to be quite gone,
it would now and then break out in a distant rumble, so to speak,
in the form of muttered ejaculations. One of these was, "Ain't nigger
enough in him to show in his fingernails, en dat takes mighty little--
yit dey's enough to pain his soul."
Presently she muttered. "Yassir, enough to paint a whole thimbleful
of 'em." At last her ramblings ceased altogether, and her countenance
began to clear--a welcome sight to Tom, who had learned her moods,
and knew she was on the threshold of good humor now.
He noticed that from time to time she unconsciously carried her finger
to the end of her nose. He looked closer and said:
"Why, Mammy, the end of your nose is skinned. How did that come?"
She sent out the sort of wholehearted peal of laughter which God had
vouchsafed in its perfection to none but the happy angels in heaven
and the bruised and broken black slave on the earth, and said:
"Dad fetch dat duel, I be'n in it myself."
"Gracious! did a bullet to that?"
"Yassir, you bet it did!"
"Well, I declare! Why, how did that happen?"
"Happened dis-away. I 'uz a-sett'n' here kinder dozin' in de dark,
en _che-bang!_ goes a gun, right out dah. I skips along out towards
t'other end o' de house to see what's gwine on, en stops by de ole winder
on de side towards Pudd'nhead Wilson's house dat ain't got no sash in it--
but dey ain't none of 'em got any sashes, for as dat's concerned--
en I stood dah in de dark en look out, en dar in the moonlight,
right down under me 'uz one o' de twins a-cussin'--not much,
but jist a-cussin' soft--it 'uz de brown one dat 'uz cussin,'
'ca'se he 'uz hit in de shoulder. En Doctor Claypool he 'uz
a-workin' at him, en Pudd'nhead Wilson he 'uz a-he'pin', en ole
Jedge Driscoll en Pem Howard 'uz a-standin' out yonder a little piece
waitin' for 'em to get ready agin. En treckly dey squared off en give
de word, en _bang-bang_ went de pistols, en de twin he say,
'Ouch!'--hit him on de han' dis time --en I hear dat same bullet
go _spat!_ ag'in de logs under de winder; en de nex' time dey shoot,
de twin say, 'Ouch!' ag'in, en I done it too, 'ca'se de bullet glance'
on his cheekbone en skip up here en glance' on de side o' de winder
en whiz right acrost my face en tuck de hide off'n my nose--
why, if I'd 'a'; be'n jist a inch or a inch en a half furder 't
would 'a' tuck de whole nose en disfiggered me. Here's de bullet;
I hunted her up."
"Did you stand there all the time?"
"Dat's a question to ask, ain't it! What else would I do?
Does I git a chance to see a duel every day?"
"Why, you were right in range! Weren't you afraid?"
The woman gave a sniff of scorn.
"'Fraid! De Smith-Pocahontases ain't 'fraid o' nothin', let alone bullets."
"They've got pluck enough, I suppose; what they lack is judgment.
_I_ wouldn't have stood there."
"Nobody's accusin' you!"
"Did anybody else get hurt?"
"Yes, we all got hit 'cep' de blon' twin en de doctor en de seconds.
De Jedge didn't git hurt, but I hear Pudd'nhead say de bullet snip
some o' his ha'r off."
"'George!" said Tom to himself, "to come so near being out
of my trouble, and miss it by an inch. Oh dear, dear, he will
live to find me out and sell me to some nigger trader yet--yes,
and he would do it in a minute." Then he said aloud, in a grave tone:
"Mother, we are in an awful fix."
Roxana caught her breath with a spasm, and said:
"Chile! What you hit a body so sudden for, like dat?
What's be'n en gone en happen'?"
"Well, there's one thing I didn't tell you. When I wouldn't fight,
he tore up the will again, and--"
Roxana's face turned a dead white, and she said:
"Now you's _done!_--done forever! Dat's de end. Bofe un us is gwine
to starve to--"
"Wait and hear me through, can't you! I reckon that when he
resolved to fight, himself, he thought he might get killed and
not have a chance to forgive me any more in this life, so he made
the will again, and I've seen it, and it's all right. But--"
"Oh, thank goodness, den we's safe ag'in!--safe! en so what
did you want to come here en talk sich dreadful--"
"Hold ON, I tell you, and let me finish. The swag I gathered
won't half square me up, and the first thing we know, my creditors--
well, you know what'll happen."
Roxana dropped her chin, and told her son to leave her alone--
she must think this matter out. Presently she said impressively:
"You got to go mighty keerful now, I tell you! En here's what you
got to do. He didn't git killed, en if you gives him de least reason,
he'll bust de will ag'in, en dat's de _las'_ time, now you hear me!
So--you's got to show him what you kin do in de nex' few days.
You got to be pison good, en let him see it; you got to do everything
dat'll make him b'lieve in you, en you got to sweeten aroun' ole Aunt Pratt,
too--she's pow'ful strong with de Jedge, en de bes' frien' you got.
Nex', you'll go 'long away to Sent Louis, en dat'll _keep_ him in yo' favor.
Den you go en make a bargain wid dem people. You tell 'em he ain't gwine
to live long--en dat's de fac', too--en tell 'em you'll pay 'em intrust,
en big intrust, too--ten per--what you call it?"
"Ten percent a month?"
"Dat's it. Den you take and sell yo' truck aroun', a little at a time,
en pay de intrust. How long will it las'?"
"I think there's enough to pay the interest five or six months."
"Den you's all right. If he don't die in six months, dat don't make
no diff'rence--Providence'll provide. You's gwine to be safe--
if you behaves." She bent an austere eye on him and added,
"En you IS gwine to behave--does you know dat?"
He laughed and said he was going to try, anyway. She did not unbend.
She said gravely:
"Tryin' ain't de thing. You's gwine to _do_ it. You ain't gwine
to steal a pin--'ca'se it ain't safe no mo'; en you ain't gwine into
no bad comp'ny--not even once, you understand; en you ain't gwine
to drink a drop--nary a single drop; en you ain't gwine to gamble
one single gamble--not one! Dis ain't what you's gwine to try to do,
it's what you's gwine to DO. En I'll tell you how I knows it.
Dis is how. I's gwine to foller along to Sent Louis my own self;
en you's gwine to come to me every day o' your life, en I'll look
you over; en if you fails in one single one o' dem things--jist _one_--
I take my oath I'll come straight down to dis town en tell de Jedge
you's a nigger en a slave--en _prove_ it!" She paused to let her words
sink home. Then she added, "Chambers, does you b'lieve me when I says dat?"
Tom was sober enough now. There was no levity in his voice
when he answered:
"Yes, Mother, I know, now, that I am reformed--and permanently.
Permanently--and beyond the reach of any human temptation."
"Den g'long home en begin!"
The Robber Robbed
Nothing so needs reforming as other people's habits.
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
Behold, the fool saith, "Put not all thine eggs in the one basket"--
which is but a manner of saying, "Scatter your money and
your attention"; but the wise man saith, "Put all your eggs in
the one basket and--_watch that basket!_"
--Pudd'nhead Wilson's Calendar
What a time of it Dawson's Landing was having! All its life
it had been asleep, but now it hardly got a chance for a nod,
so swiftly did big events and crashing surprises come along in one
another's wake: Friday morning, first glimpse of Real Nobility,
also grand reception at Aunt Patsy Cooper's, also great robber raid;
Friday evening, dramatic kicking of the heir of the chief citizen in
presence of four hundred people; Saturday morning, emergence as
practicing lawyer of the long-submerged Pudd'nhead Wilson;
Saturday night, duel between chief citizen and titled stranger.
The people took more pride in the duel than in all the other
events put together, perhaps. It was a glory to their town to have
such a thing happen there. In their eyes the principals had reached
the summit of human honor. Everybody paid homage to their names;
their praises were in all mouths. Even the duelists' subordinates
came in for a handsome share of the public approbation:
wherefore Pudd'nhead Wilson was suddenly become a man of consequence.
When asked to run for the mayoralty Saturday night, he was risking defeat,
but Sunday morning found him a made man and his success assured.
The twins were prodigiously great now; the town took them to its bosom
with enthusiasm. Day after day, and night after night,
they went dining and visiting from house to house, making friends,
enlarging and solidifying their popularity, and charming and surprising
all with their musical prodigies, and now and then heightening the
effects with samples of what they could do in other directions,
out of their stock of rare and curious accomplishments. They were
so pleased that they gave the regulation thirty days' notice,
the required preparation for citizenship, and resolved to finish
their days in this pleasant place. That was the climax.
The delighted community rose as one man and applauded; and when
the twins were asked to stand for seats in the forthcoming
aldermanic board, and consented, the public contentment was
rounded and complete.
Tom Driscoll was not happy over these things; they sunk deep,
and hurt all the way down. He hated the one twin for kicking him,
and the other one for being the kicker's brother.
Now and then the people wondered why nothing was heard of the raider,
or of the stolen knife or the other plunder, but nobody was able
to throw any light on that matter. Nearly a week had drifted by,
and still the thing remained a vexed mystery.
On Sunday Constable Blake and Pudd'nhead Wilson met on the street,
and Tom Driscoll joined them in time to open their conversation for them.
He said to Blake: "You are not looking well, Blake; you seem to be
annoyed about something. Has anything gone wrong in the
detective business? I believe you fairly and justifiably claim
to have a pretty good reputation in that line, isn't it so?"--
which made Blake feel good, and look it; but Tom added,
"for a country detective"--which made Blake feel the other way,
and not only look it, but betray it in his voice.
"Yes, sir, I _have_ got a reputation; and it's as good as
anybody's in the profession, too, country or no country."
"Oh, I beg pardon; I didn't mean any offense. What I started out
to ask was only about the old woman that raided the town--
the stoop-shouldered old woman, you know, that you said you were going
to catch; and I knew you would, too, because you have the reputation
of never boasting, and--well, you--you've caught the old woman?"
"Damn the old woman!"
"Why, sho! you don't mean to say you haven't caught her?"
"No, I haven't caught her. If anybody could have caught her,
I could; but nobody couldn't, I don't care who he is."
I am sorry, real sorry--for your sake; because, when it gets around
that a detective has expressed himself confidently, and then--"
"Don't you worry, that's all--don't you worry; and as for the town,
the town needn't worry either. She's my meat--make yourself easy
about that. I'm on her track; I've got clues that--"
"That's good! Now if you could get an old veteran detective down from
St. Louis to help you find out what the clues mean, and where
they lead to, and then--"
"I'm plenty veteran enough myself, and I don't need anybody's help.
I'll have her inside of a we--inside of a month. That I'll swear to!"
Tom said carelessly:
"I suppose that will answer--yes, that will answer. But I reckon
she is pretty old, and old people don't often outlive the
cautious pace of the professional detective when he has got his
clues together and is out on his still-hunt."
Blake's dull face flushed under this gibe, but before he could set
his retort in order Tom had turned to Wilson, and was saying,
with placid indifference of manner and voice:
"Who got the reward, Pudd'nhead?"
Wilson winced slightly, and saw that his own turn was come.
"Why, the reward for the thief, and the other one for the knife."
Wilson answered--and rather uncomfortably, to judge by his
hesitating fashion of delivering himself:
"Well, the--well, in face, nobody has claimed it yet."
Tom seemed surprised.
"Why, is that so?"
Wilson showed a trifle of irritation when he replied:
"Yes, it's so. And what of it?"
"Oh, nothing. Only I thought you had struck out a new idea,
and invented a scheme that was going to revolutionize the timeworn
and ineffectual methods of the--" He stopped, and turned to Blake,
who was happy now that another had taken his place on the gridiron.
"Blake, didn't you understand him to intimate that it wouldn't be
necessary for you to hunt the old woman down?"
'B'George, he said he'd have thief and swag both inside of three days--
he did, by hokey! and that's just about a week ago.
Why, I said at the time that no thief and no thief's pal was
going to try to pawn or sell a thing where he knowed the pawnbroker
could get both rewards by taking HIM into camp _with_ the swag.
It was the blessedest idea that ever I struck!"
"You'd change your mind," said Wilson, with irritated bluntness,
"if you knew the entire scheme instead of only part of it."
"Well," said the constable, pensively, "I had the idea that
it wouldn't work, and up to now I'm right anyway."
"Very well, then, let it stand at that, and give it a further show.
It has worked at least as well as your own methods, you perceive."
The constable hadn't anything handy to hit back with,
so he discharged a discontented sniff, and said nothing.
After the night that Wilson had partly revealed his scheme
at his house, Tom had tried for several days to guess out the
secret of the rest of it, but had failed. Then it occurred to
him to give Roxana's smarter head a chance at it. He made up a
supposititious0z H case, and laid it before her. She thought it over,
and delivered her verdict upon it. Tom said to himself,
"She's hit it, sure!" He thought he would test that verdict now,
and watch Wilson's face; so he said reflectively:
"Wilson, you're not a fool--a fact of recent discovery.
Whatever your scheme was, it had sense in it, Blake's opinion to
the contrary notwithstanding. I don't ask you to reveal it,
but I will suppose a case--a case which you will answer as a starting
point for the real thing I am going to come at, and that's all I want.
You offered five hundred dollars for the knife, and five hundred
for the thief. We will suppose, for argument's sake,
that the first reward is _advertised_ and the second offered by
_private letter_ to pawnbrokers and--"
Blake slapped his thigh, and cried out:
"By Jackson, he's got you, Pudd'nhead! Now why couldn't I
or _any_ fool have thought of that?"
Wilson said to himself, "Anybody with a reasonably good head would
have thought of it. I am not surprised that Blake didn't detect it;
I am only surprised that Tom did. There is more to him
than I supposed." He said nothing aloud, and Tom went on:
"Very well. The thief would not suspect that there was a trap,
and he would bring or send the knife, and say he bought it for a song,
or found it in the road, or something like that, and try
to collect the reward, and be arrested--wouldn't he?"
"Yes," said Wilson.
"I think so," said Tom. "There can't be any doubt of it.
Have you ever seen that knife?"
"Has any friend of yours?"
"Not that I know of."
"Well, I begin to think I understand why your scheme failed."
"What do you mean, Tom? What are you driving at?" asked Wilson,
with a dawning sense of discomfort.
"Why, that there _isn't_ any such knife."
"Look here, Wilson," said Blake, "Tom Driscoll's right,
for a thousand dollars--if I had it."
Wilson's blood warmed a little, and he wondered if he had been played
upon by those strangers; it certainly had something of that look.
But what could they gain by it? He threw out that suggestion.
"Gain? Oh, nothing that you would value, maybe. But they are strangers
making their way in a new community. Is it nothing to them to appear
as pets of an Oriental prince--at no expense? It is nothing
to them to be able to dazzle this poor town with thousand-dollar
rewards--at no expense? Wilson, there isn't any such knife,
or your scheme would have fetched it to light. Or if there is
any such knife, they've got it yet. I believe, myself,
that they've seen such a knife, for Angelo pictured it out with
his pencil too swiftly and handily for him to have been inventing it,
and of course I can't swear that they've never had it; but this I'll
go bail for--if they had it when they came to this town,
they've got it yet."
"It looks mighty reasonable, the way Tom puts it; it most certainly does."
Tom responded, turning to leave:
"You find the old woman, Blake, and if she can't furnish the knife,
go and search the twins!"
Tom sauntered away. Wilson felt a good deal depressed. He hardly
knew what to think. He was loath to withdraw his faith from the twins,
and was resolved not to do it on the present indecisive evidence;
but--well, he would think, and then decide how to act.
"Blake, what do you think of this matter?"
"Well, Pudd'nhead, I'm bound to say I put it up the way Tom does.
They hadn't the knife; or if they had it, they've got it yet."
The men parted. Wilson said to himself:
"I believe they had it; if it had been stolen, the scheme would have
restored it, that is certain. And so I believe they've got it."
Tom had no purpose in his mind when he encountered those two men.
When he began his talk he hoped to be able to gall them a
little and get a trifle of malicious entertainment out of it.
But when he left, he left in great spirits, for he perceived that
just by pure luck and no troublesome labor he had accomplished
several delightful things: he had touched both men on a raw spot
and seen them squirm; he had modified Wilson's sweetness for the
twins with one small bitter taste that he wouldn't be able to get
out of his mouth right away; and, best of all, he had taken the
hated twins down a peg with the community; for Blake would gossip
around freely, after the manner of detectives, and within a week
the town would be laughing at them in its sleeve for offering a
gaudy reward for a bauble which they either never possessed or
hadn't lost. Tom was very well satisfied with himself.
Tom's behavior at home had been perfect during the entire week.
His uncle and aunt had seen nothing like it before. They could find
no fault with him anywhere.
Saturday evening he said to the Judge:
"I've had something preying on my mind, uncle, and as I am going away,
and might never see you again, I can't bear it any longer.
I made you believe I was afraid to fight that Italian adventurer.
I had to get out of it on some pretext or other, and maybe I
chose badly, being taken unawares, but no honorable person could
consent to meet him in the field, knowing what I knew about him."
"Indeed? What was that?"
"Count Luigi is a confessed assassin."