The adventures of huckle.., p.31
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       The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's Comrade), p.31

           Mark Twain
 

  CHAPTER XXIX

  They was fetching a very nice-looking old gentleman along, and anice-looking younger one, with his right arm in a sling. And, mysouls, how the people yelled and laughed, and kept it up. But I didn'tsee no joke about it, and I judged it would strain the duke and theking some to see any. I reckoned they'd turn pale. But no, nary a paledid _they_ turn. The duke he never let on he suspicioned what was up,but just went a goo-gooing around, happy and satisfied, like a jugthat's googling out buttermilk; and as for the king, he just gazed andgazed down sorrowful on them new-comers like it give him thestomach-ache in his very heart to think there could be such frauds andrascals in the world. Oh, he done it admirable. Lots of the principalpeople gethered around the king, to let him see they was on his side.That old gentleman that had just come looked all puzzled to death.Pretty soon he begun to speak, and I see straight off he pronounced_like_ an Englishman--not the king's way, though the king's _was_pretty good for an imitation. I can't give the old gent's words, nor Ican't imitate him; but he turned around to the crowd, and says, aboutlike this:

  "This is a surprise to me which I wasn't looking for; and I'llacknowledge, candid and frank, I ain't very well fixed to meet it andanswer it; for my brother and me has had misfortunes; he's broke hisarm, and our baggage got put off at a town above here last night inthe night by a mistake. I am Peter Wilks's brother Harvey, and this ishis brother William, which can't hear nor speak--and can't even makesigns to amount to much, now't he's only got one hand to work themwith. We are who we say we are; and in a day or two, when I get thebaggage, I can prove it. But up till then I won't say nothing more,but go to the hotel and wait."

  So him and the new dummy started off; and the king he laughs, andblethers out:

  "Broke his arm--_very_ likely, _ain't_ it?--and very convenient, too,for a fraud that's got to make signs, and ain't learnt how. Lost theirbaggage! That's _mighty_ good!--and mighty ingenious--under the_circumstances!_"

  So he laughed again; and so did everybody else, except three or four,or maybe half a dozen. One of these was that doctor; another one was asharp-looking gentleman, with a carpet-bag of the old-fashioned kindmade out of carpet-stuff, that had just come off of the steamboat andwas talking to him in a low voice, and glancing towards the king nowand then and nodding their heads--it was Levi Bell, the lawyer thatwas gone up to Louisville; and another one was a big rough husky thatcome along and listened to all the old gentlemen said, and waslistening to the king now. And when the king got done this husky upand says:

  "Say, looky here; if you are Harvey Wilks, when'd you come to thistown?"

  "The day before the funeral, friend," says the king.

  "But what time o' day?"

  "In the evenin'--'bout an hour er two before sundown."

  "How'd you come?"

  "I come down on the _Susan Powell_ from Cincinnati."

  "Well, then, how'd you come to be up at the Pint in the _mornin_'--ina canoe?"

  "I warn't up at the Pint in the mornin'."

  "It's a lie."

  Several of them jumped for him and begged him not to talk that way toan old man and a preacher.

  "Preacher be hanged, he's a fraud and a liar. He was up at the Pintthat mornin'. I live up there, don't I? Well, I was up there, and hewas up there. I see him there. He come in a canoe, along with TimCollins and a boy."

  The doctor he up and says:

  "Would you know the boy again if you was to see him, Hines?"

  "I reckon I would, but I don't know. Why, yonder he is, now. I knowhim perfectly easy."

  It was me he pointed at. The doctor says:

  "Neighbors, I don't know whether the new couple is frauds or not; butif _these_ two ain't frauds, I am an idiot, that's all. I think it'sour duty to see that they don't get away from here till we've lookedinto this thing. Come along, Hines; come along, the rest of you. We'lltake these fellows to the tavern and affront them with t'other couple,and I reckon we'll find out _something_ before we get through."

  It was nuts for the crowd, though maybe not for the king's friends; sowe all started. It was about sundown. The doctor he led me along bythe hand, and was plenty kind enough, but he never let go my hand.

  We all got in a big room in the hotel, and lit up some candles, andfetched in the new couple. First, the doctor says:

  "I don't wish to be too hard on these two men, but I think they'refrauds, and they may have complices that we don't know nothing about.If they have, won't the complices get away with that bag of gold PeterWilks left? It ain't unlikely. If these men ain't frauds, they won'tobject to sending for that money and letting us keep it till theyprove they're all right--ain't that so?"

  Everybody agreed to that. So I judged they had our gang in a prettytight place right at the outstart. But the king he only lookedsorrowful, and says:

  "Gentlemen, I wish the money was there, for I ain't got no dispositionto throw anything in the way of a fair, open, out-and-outinvestigation o' this misable business; but, alas, the money ain'tthere; you k'n send and see, if you want to."

  "Where is it, then?"

  "Well, when my niece give it to me to keep for her I took and hid itinside o' the straw tick o' my bed, not wishin' to bank it for the fewdays we'd be here, and considerin' the bed a safe place, we not bein'used to niggers, and suppos'n' 'em honest, like servants in England.The niggers stole it the very next mornin' after I had wentdown-stairs; and when I sold 'em I hadn't missed the money yit, sothey got clean away with it. My servant here k'n tell you 'bout it,gentlemen."

  The doctor and several said "Shucks!" and I see nobody didn'taltogether believe him. One man asked me if I see the niggers stealit. I said no, but I see them sneaking out of the room and hustlingaway, and I never thought nothing, only I reckoned they was afraidthey had waked up my master and was trying to get away before he madetrouble with them. That was all they asked me. Then the doctor whirlson me and says:

  "Are _you_ English, too?"

  I says yes; and him and some others laughed, and said, "Stuff!"

  Well, then they sailed in on the general investigation, and there wehad it, up and down, hour in, hour out, and nobody never said a wordabout supper, nor ever seemed to think about it--and so they kept itup, and kept it up; and it _was_ the worst mixed-up thing you eversee. They made the king tell his yarn, and they made the old gentlemantell his'n; and anybody but a lot of prejudiced chuckleheads would 'a'_seen_ that the old gentleman was spinning truth and t'other one lies.And by and by they had me up to tell what I knowed. The king he giveme a left-handed look out of the corner of his eye, and so I knowedenough to talk on the right side. I begun to tell about Sheffield, andhow we lived there, and all about the English Wilkses, and so on; butI didn't get pretty fur till the doctor begun to laugh; and Levi Bell,the lawyer, says:

  "Set down, my boy; I wouldn't strain myself if I was you. I reckon youain't used to lying, it don't seem to come handy; what you want ispractice. You do it pretty awkward."

  I didn't care nothing for the compliment, but I was glad to be letoff, anyway.

  The doctor he started to say something, and turns and says:

  "If you'd been in town at first, Levi Bell--"

  The king broke in and reached out his hand, and says:

  "Why, is this my poor dead brother's old friend that he's wrote sooften about?"

  The lawyer and him shook hands, and the lawyer smiled and lookedpleased, and they talked right along awhile, and then got to one sideand talked low; and at last the lawyer speaks up and says:

  "That 'll fix it. I'll take the order and send it, along with yourbrother's, and then they'll know it's all right."

  So they got some paper and a pen, and the king he set down and twistedhis head to one side, and chawed his tongue, and scrawled offsomething; and then they give the pen to the duke--and then for thefirst time the duke looked sick. But he took the pen and wrote. Sothen the lawyer turns to the new old gentleman and says:

  "You and your brother please write a line or t
wo and sign your names."

  The old gentleman wrote, but nobody couldn't read it. The lawyerlooked powerful astonished, and says:

  "Well, it beats _me_--and snaked a lot of old letters out of hispocket, and examined them, and then examined the old man's writing,and then _them_ again; and then says: "These old letters is fromHarvey Wilks; and here's _these_ two handwritings, and anybody can see_they_ didn't write them" (the king and the duke looked sold andfoolish, I tell you, to see how the lawyer had took them in), "andhere's _this_ old gentleman's handwriting, and anybody can tell, easyenough, _he_ didn't write them--fact is, the scratches he makes ain'tproperly _writing_ at all. Now, here's some letters from--"

  The new old gentleman says:

  "If you please, let me explain. Nobody can read my hand but my brotherthere--so he copies for me. It's _his_ hand you've got there, notmine."

  "_Well!_" says the lawyer, "this _is_ a state of things. I've got someof William's letters, too; so if you'll get him to write a line or sowe can com--"

  "He _can't_ write with his left hand," says the old gentleman. "If hecould use his right hand, you would see that he wrote his own lettersand mine too. Look at both, please--they're by the same hand."

  The lawyer done it, and says:

  "I believe it's so--and if it ain't so, there's a heap strongerresemblance than I'd noticed before, anyway. Well, well, well! Ithought we was right on the track of a slution, but it's gone tograss, partly. But anyway, _one_ thing is proved--_these_ two ain'teither of 'em Wilkses"--and he wagged his head towards the king andthe duke.

  Well, what do you think? That mule-headed old fool wouldn't give in_then!_ Indeed he wouldn't. Said it warn't no fair test. Said hisbrother William was the cussedest joker in the world, and hadn't_tried_ to write--_he_ see William was going to play one of his jokesthe minute he put the pen to paper. And so he warmed up and wentwarbling right along till he was actuly beginning to believe what hewas saying _himself_; but pretty soon the new gentleman broke in, andsays:

  "I've thought of something. Is there anybody here that helped to layout my br--helped to lay out the late Peter Wilks for burying?"

  "Yes," says somebody, "me and Ab Turner done it. We're both here."

  Then the old man turns toward the king, and says:

  "Peraps this gentleman can tell me what was tattooed on his breast?"

  Blamed if the king didn't have to brace up mighty quick, or he'd 'a'squshed down like a bluff bank that the river has cut under, it tookhim so sudden; and, mind you, it was a thing that was calculated tomake most _anybody_ sqush to get fetched such a solid one as thatwithout any notice, because how was _he_ going to know what wastattooed on the man? He whitened a little; he couldn't help it; andit was mighty still in there, and everybody bending a little forwardsand gazing at him. Says I to myself, _Now_ he'll throw up thesponge--there ain't no more use. Well, did he? A body can't hardlybelieve it, but he didn't. I reckon he thought he'd keep the thing uptill he tired them people out, so they'd thin out, and him and theduke could break loose and get away. Anyway, he set there, and prettysoon he begun to smile, and says:

  "Mf! It's a _very_ tough question, _ain't_ it! _Yes_, sir, I k'n tellyou what's tattooed on his breast. It's jest a small, thin, bluearrow--that's what it is; and if you don't look clost, you can't seeit. _Now_ what do you say--hey?"

  Well, _I_ never see anything like that old blister for cleanout-and-out cheek.

  The new old gentleman turns brisk towards Ab Turner and his pard, andhis eye lights up like he judged he'd got the king _this_ time, andsays:

  "There--you've heard what he said! Was there any such mark on PeterWilks's breast?"

  Both of them spoke up and says:

  "We didn't see no such mark."

  "Good!" says the old gentleman. "Now, what you _did_ see on his breastwas a small dim P, and a B (which is an initial he dropped when he wasyoung), and a W, and dashes between them, so: P--B--W"--and he markedthem that way on a piece of paper. "Come, ain't that what you saw?"

  Both of them spoke up again, and says:

  "No, we _didn't_. We never seen any marks at all."

  Well, everybody _was_ in a state of mind now, and they sings out:

  "The whole _bilin'_ of 'm 's frauds! Le's duck 'em! le's drown 'em!le's ride 'em on a rail!" and everybody was whooping at once, andthere was a rattling powwow. But the lawyer he jumps on the table andyells, and says:

  "Gentlemen--gentle_men!_ Hear me just a word--just a _single_ word--ifyou PLEASE! There's one way yet--let's go and dig up the corpse andlook."

  That took them.

  "Hooray!" they all shouted, and was starting right off; but the lawyerand the doctor sung out:

  "Hold on, hold on! Collar all these four men and the boy, and fetch_them_ along, too!"

  "We'll do it!" they all shouted; "and if we don't find them markswe'll lynch the whole gang!"

  I _was_ scared, now, I tell you. But there warn't no getting away, youknow. They gripped us all, and marched us right along, straight forthe graveyard, which was a mile and a half down the river, and thewhole town at our heels, for we made noise enough, and it was onlynine in the evening.

  As we went by our house I wished I hadn't sent Mary Jane out of town;because now if I could tip her the wink she'd light out and save me,and blow on our dead-beats.

  Well, we swarmed along down the river road, just carrying on likewildcats; and to make it more scary the sky was darking up, and thelightning beginning to wink and flitter, and the wind to shiveramongst the leaves. This was the most awful trouble and mostdangersome I ever was in; and I was kinder stunned; everything wasgoing so different from what I had allowed for; stead of being fixedso I could take my own time if I wanted to, and see all the fun, andhave Mary Jane at my back to save me and set me free when theclose-fit come, here was nothing in the world betwixt me and suddendeath but just them tattoo-marks. If they didn't find them--

  I couldn't bear to think about it; and yet, somehow, I couldn't thinkabout nothing else. It got darker and darker, and it was a beautifultime to give the crowd the slip; but that big husky had me by thewrist--Hines--and a body might as well try to give Goliar the slip. Hedragged me right along, he was so excited, and I had to run to keepup.

  When they got there they swarmed into the graveyard and washed over itlike an overflow. And when they got to the grave they found they hadabout a hundred times as many shovels as they wanted, but nobodyhadn't thought to fetch a lantern. But they sailed into digging anywayby the flicker of the lightning, and sent a man to the nearest house,a half a mile off, to borrow one.

  So they dug and dug like everything; and it got awful dark, and therain started, and the wind swished and swushed along, and thelightning come brisker and brisker, and the thunder boomed; but thempeople never took no notice of it, they was so full of this business;and one minute you could see everything and every face in that bigcrowd, and the shovelfuls of dirt sailing up out of the grave, and thenext second the dark wiped it all out, and you couldn't see nothing atall.

  At last they got out the coffin and begun to unscrew the lid, and thensuch another crowding and shouldering and shoving as there was, toscrouge in and get a sight, you never see; and in the dark, that way,it was awful. Hines he hurt my wrist dreadful pulling and tugging so,and I reckon he clean forgot I was in the world, he was so excited andpanting.

  All of a sudden the lightning let go a perfect sluice of white glare,and somebody sings out:

  "By the living jingo, here's the bag of gold on his breast!"

  Hines let out a whoop, like everybody else, and dropped my wrist andgive a big surge to bust his way in and get a look, and the way I litout and shinned for the road in the dark there ain't nobody can tell.

  I had the road all to myself, and I fairly flew--leastways, I had itall to myself except the solid dark, and the now-and-then glares, andthe buzzing of the rain, and the thrashing of the wind, and thesplitting of the thunder; and sure as you are born I did clip italong!

  Wh
en I struck the town I see there warn't nobody out in the storm, soI never hunted for no back streets, but humped it straight through themain one; and when I begun to get towards our house I aimed my eye andset it. No light there; the house all dark--which made me feel sorryand disappointed, I didn't know why. But at last, just as I wassailing by, _flash_ comes the light in Mary Jane's window! and myheart swelled up sudden, like to bust; and the same second the houseand all was behind me in the dark, and wasn't ever going to be beforeme no more in this world. She _was_ the best girl I ever see, and hadthe most sand.

  The minute I was far enough above the town to see I could make thetowhead, I begun to look sharp for a boat to borrow, and the firsttime the lightning showed me one that wasn't chained I snatched it andshoved. It was a canoe, and warn't fastened with nothing but a rope.The towhead was a rattling big distance off, away out there in themiddle of the river, but I didn't lose no time; and when I struck theraft at last I was so fagged I would 'a' just laid down to blow andgasp if I could afforded it. But I didn't. As I sprung aboard I sungout:

  "Out with you, Jim, and set her loose! Glory be to goodness, we'reshut of them!"

  Jim lit out, and was a-coming for me with both arms spread, he was sofull of joy; but when I glimpsed him in the lightning my heart shot upin my mouth and I went overboard backwards; for I forgot he was oldKing Lear and a drownded A-rab all in one, and it most scared thelivers and lights out of me. But Jim fished me out, and was going tohug me and bless me, and so on, he was so glad I was back and we wasshut of the king and the duke, but I says:

  "Not now; have it for breakfast, have it for breakfast! Cut loose andlet her slide!"

  So in two seconds away we went a-sliding down the river, and it _did_seem so good to be free again and all by ourselves on the big river,and nobody to bother us. I had to skip around a bit, and jump up andcrack my heels a few times--I couldn't help it; but about the thirdcrack I noticed a sound that I knowed mighty well, and held my breathand listened and waited; and sure enough, when the next flash bustedout over the water, here they come!--and just a-laying to their oarsand making their skiff hum! It was the king and the duke.

  So I wilted right down onto the planks then, and give up; and it wasall I could do to keep from crying.

 

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