The adventures of huckle.., p.21
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       The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's Comrade), p.21

           Mark Twain
 

  CHAPTER XIX

  Two or three days and nights went by; I reckon I might say they swumby, they slid along so quiet and smooth and lovely. Here is the way weput in the time. It was a monstrous big river down there--sometimes amile 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--nearlyalways in the dead water under a towhead; and then cut youngcottonwoods and willows, and hid the raft with them. Then we set outthe lines. Next we slid into the river and had a swim, so as tofreshen up and cool off; then we set down on the sandy bottom wherethe water was about knee-deep, and watched the daylight come. Not asound anywheres--perfectly still--just like the whole world wasasleep, only sometimes the bullfrogs a-cluttering, maybe. The firstthing to see, looking away over the water, was a kind of dullline--that was the woods on t'other side; you couldn't make nothingelse out; then a pale place in the sky; then more paleness spreadingaround; then the river softened up away off, and warn't black anymore, but gray; you could see little dark spots drifting along ever sofar away--trading-scows, and such things; and long blackstreaks--rafts; sometimes you could hear a sweep screaking; orjumbled-up voices, it was so still, and sounds come so far; and by andby you could see a streak on the water which you know by the look ofthe streak that there's a snag there in a swift current which breakson it and makes that streak look that way; and you see the mist curlup off of the water, and the east reddens up, and the river, and youmake out a log cabin in the edge of the woods, away on the bank ont'other side of the river, being a wood-yard, likely, and piled bythem cheats so you can throw a dog through it anywheres; then the nicebreeze springs up, and comes fanning you from over there, so cool andfresh and sweet to smell on account of the woods and the flowers; butsometimes 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 thefull day, and everything smiling in the sun, and the song-birds justgoing it!

  A little smoke couldn't be noticed now, so we would take some fish offof the lines and cook up a hot breakfast. And afterwards we wouldwatch the lonesomeness of the river, and kind of lazy along, and byand by lazy off to sleep. Wake up by and by, and look to see what doneit, and maybe see a steamboat coughing along up-stream, so far offtowards the other side you couldn't tell nothing about her onlywhether she was a stern-wheel or side-wheel; then for about an hourthere wouldn't be nothing to hear nor nothing to see--just solidlonesomeness. Next you'd see a raft sliding by, away off yonder, andmaybe a galoot on it chopping, because they're most always doing it ona raft; you'd see the ax flash and come down--you don't hear nothing;you see that ax go up again, and by the time it's above the man's headthen you hear the _k'chunk!_--it had took all that time to come overthe water. So we would put in the day, lazying around, listening tothe stillness. Once there was a thick fog, and the rafts and thingsthat went by was beating tin pans so the steamboats wouldn't run overthem. A scow or a raft went by so close we could hear them talking andcussing and laughing--heard them plain; but we couldn't see no sign ofthem; it made you feel crawly; it was like spirits carrying on thatway 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 themiddle we let her alone, and let her float wherever the current wantedher to; then we lit the pipes, and dangled our legs in the water, andtalked about all kinds of things--we was always naked, day and night,whenever the mosquitoes would let us--the new clothes Buck's folksmade for me was too good to be comfortable, and besides I didn't gomuch on clothes, nohow.

  Sometimes we'd have that whole river all to ourselves for the longesttime. Yonder was the banks and the islands, across the water; andmaybe a spark--which was a candle in a cabin window; and sometimes onthe 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 ofthem 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 upat them, and discuss about whether they was made or only justhappened. Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they happened; Ijudged it would have took too long to _make_ so many. Jim said themoon could 'a' _laid_ them; well, that looked kind of reasonable, so Ididn't say nothing against it, because I've seen a frog lay most asmany, so of course it could be done. We used to watch the stars thatfell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed they'd got spoiledand was hove out of the nest.

  Once or twice of a night we would see a steamboat slipping along inthe dark, and now and then she would belch a whole world of sparks upout of her chimbleys, and they would rain down in the river and lookawful pretty; then she would turn a corner and her lights would winkout and her powwow shut off and leave the river still again; and byand by her waves would get to us, a long time after she was gone, andjoggle the raft a bit, and after that you wouldn't hear nothing foryou couldn't tell how long, except maybe frogs or something.

  After midnight the people on shore went to bed, and then for two orthree hours the shores was black--no more sparks in the cabin windows.These sparks was our clock--the first one that showed again meantmorning was coming, so we hunted a place to hide and tie up rightaway.

  One morning about daybreak I found a canoe and crossed over a chute tothe main shore--it was only two hundred yards--and paddled about amile up a crick amongst the cypress woods, to see if I couldn't getsome berries. Just as I was passing a place where a kind of a cowpathcrossed the crick, here comes a couple of men tearing up the path astight as they could foot it. I thought I was a goner, for wheneveranybody was after anybody I judged it was _me_--or maybe Jim. I wasabout to dig out from there in a hurry, but they was pretty close tome then, and sung out and begged me to save their lives--said theyhadn't been doing nothing, and was being chased for it--said there wasmen 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 gottime 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 'llthrow 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 awayoff, shouting. We heard them come along towards the crick, butcouldn't see them; they seemed to stop and fool around awhile; then,as we got further and further away all the time, we couldn't hardlyhear them at all; by the time we had left a mile of woods behind usand struck the river, everything was quiet, and we paddled over to thetowhead and hid in the cottonwoods and was safe.

  One of these fellows was about seventy or upwards, and had a bald headand very gray whiskers. He had an old battered-up slouch hat on, and agreasy blue woolen shirt, and ragged old blue jeans britches stuffedinto his boot-tops, and home-knit galluses--no, he only had one. Hehad an old long-tailed blue jeans coat with slick brass buttons flungover his arm, and both of them had big, fat, ratty-lookingcarpet-bags.

  The other fellow was about thirty, and dressed about as ornery. Afterbreakfast we all laid off and talked, and the first thing that comeout 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 theteeth--and it does take it off, too, and generly the enamel along withit--but I stayed about one night longer than I ought to, and was justin the act of sliding out when I ran across you on the trail this sideof town, and you told me they were coming, and begged me to help youto get off. So I told you I was expecting trouble myself, and wouldscatter out _with_ you. That's the whole yarn--what's yourn?"

  "Well, I'd ben a-runnin' a little temperance revival thar 'bout aweek, and was the pet of the women folks, big and little, for I wasmakin' it mighty warm for the rummies, I _tell_ you, and takin' asmuch as five or six dollars a night--ten cents a head, children andniggers free--and business a-growin
' all the time, when somehow oranother a little report got around last night that I had a way ofputtin' in my time with a private jug on the sly. A nigger rousted meout this mornin', and told me the people was getherin' on the quietwith their dogs and horses, and they'd be along pretty soon and giveme 'bout half an hour's start, and then run me down if they could; andif they got me they'd tar and feather me and ride me on a rail, sure.I didn't wait for no breakfast--I warn't hungry."

  "Old man," said the young one, "I reckon we might double-team ittogether; 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 andphrenology when there's a chance; teach singing-geography school for achange; sling a lecture sometimes--oh, I do lots of things--mostanything 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; andI k'n tell a fortune pretty good when I've got somebody along to findout 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 sighand says:

  "Alas!"

  "What 're you alassin' about?" says the baldhead.

  "To think I should have lived to be leading such a life, and bedegraded down into such company." And he begun to wipe the corner ofhis eye with a rag.

  "Dern your skin, ain't the company good enough for you?" says thebaldhead, pretty pert and uppish.

  "Yes, it _is_ good enough for me; it's as good as I deserve; for whofetched 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 itall. Let the cold world do its worst; one thing I know--there's agrave somewhere for me. The world may go on just as it's always done,and take everything from me--loved ones, property, everything; but itcan't take that. Some day I'll lie down in it and forget it all, andmy poor broken heart will be at rest." He went on a-wiping.

  "Drot your pore broken heart," says the baldhead; "what are youheaving 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. Ibrought myself down--yes, I did it myself. It's right I shouldsuffer--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 itpass--'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 toyou, 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 thepure air of freedom; married here, and died, leaving a son, his ownfather dying about the same time. The second son of the late dukeseized the titles and estates--the infant real duke was ignored. I amthe lineal descendant of that infant--I am the rightful Duke ofBridgewater; and here am I, forlorn, torn from my high estate, huntedof men, despised by the cold world, ragged, worn, heartbroken, anddegraded 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 ifwe was a mind to acknowledge him, that would do him more good thanmost anything else; so we said we would, if he would tell us how. Hesaid 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 calledhim plain "Bridgewater," which, he said, was a title anyway, and not aname; and one of us ought to wait on him at dinner, and do any littlething for him he wanted done.

  Well, that was all easy, so we done it. All through dinner Jim stoodaround and waited on him, and says, "Will yo' Grace have some o' disor some o' dat?" and so on, and a body could see it was mightypleasing to him.

  But the old man got pretty silent by and by--didn't have much to say,and didn't look pretty comfortable over all that petting that wasgoing 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 youain't the only person that's had troubles like that."

  "No?"

  "No, you ain't. You ain't the only person that's ben snaked downwrongfully out'n a high place."

  "Alas!"

  "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 ofsobbing.

  "To the bitter death!" He took the old man by the hand and squeezedit, 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 verymoment on the pore disappeared Dauphin, Looy the Seventeen, son ofLooy the Sixteen and Marry Antonette."

  "You! At your age! No! You mean you're the late Charlemagne; you mustbe six or seven hundred years old, at the very least."

  "Trouble has done it, Bilgewater, trouble has done it; trouble hasbrung 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 whatto 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 tocomfort _him._ But he said it warn't no use, nothing but to be deadand done with it all could do him any good; though he said it oftenmade him feel easier and better for a while if people treated himaccording to his rights, and got down on one knee to speak to him, andalways 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 meset 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 heapsof good, and so he got cheerful and comfortable. But the duke kind ofsoured on him, and didn't look a bit satisfied with the way things wasgoing; still, the king acted real friendly towards him, and said theduke's great-grandfather and all the other Dukes of Bilgewater was agood deal thought of by _his_ father, and was allowed to come to thepalace considerable; but the duke stayed huffy a good while, till byand by the king says:

  "Like as not we got to be together a blamed long time on this h-yerraft, Bilgewater, and so what's the use o' your bein' sour? It 'llonly make things oncomfortable. It ain't my fault I warn't born aduke, it ain't your fault you warn't born a king--so what's the use toworry? Make the best o' things the way you find 'em, says I--that's mymotto. This ain't no bad thing that we've struck here--plenty grub andan 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 tookaway all the uncomfortableness and we felt mighty good over it,because it would 'a' been a miserable business to have anyunfriendliness on the raft; for what you want, above all things, on araft, is for everybody to be satisfied, and feel right and kindtowards the others.

  It didn't take me long to make up my mind that these liars warn't nokings nor dukes at all, but just low-down humbugs and frauds. But Inever said nothing, never let on; kept it to myself; it's the bestway; 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 noobjections, 'long as it would keep peace in the family; and it warn'tno use to tell Jim, so I didn't tell him. If I never learnt nothingelse out of pap, I lear
nt that the best way to get along with his kindof people is to let them have their own way.

 

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