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Chapter XVIII
 
COL. GRANGERFORD was a gentleman, you see. He was a gentleman all over;
and so was his family. He was well born, as the saying is, and that's
worth as much in a man as it is in a horse, so the Widow Douglas said, and
nobody ever denied that she was of the first aristocracy in our town; and
pap he always said it, too, though he warn't no more quality than a mudcat
himself. Col. Grangerford was very tall and very slim, and had a
darkish-paly complexion, not a sign of red in it anywheres; he was clean
shaved every morning all over his thin face, and he had the thinnest kind
of lips, and the thinnest kind of nostrils, and a high nose, and heavy
eyebrows, and the blackest kind of eyes, sunk so deep back that they
seemed like they was looking out of caverns at you, as you may say. His
forehead was high, and his hair was black and straight and hung to his
shoulders. His hands was long and thin, and every day of his life he put
on a clean shirt and a full suit from head to foot made out of linen so
white it hurt your eyes to look at it; and on Sundays he wore a blue
tail-coat with brass buttons on it. He carried a mahogany cane with a
silver head to it. There warn't no frivolishness about him, not a bit, and
he warn't ever loud. He was as kind as he could be-you could feel that,
you know, and so you had confidence. Sometimes he smiled, and it was good
to see; but when he straightened himself up like a liberty-pole, and the
lightning begun to flicker out from under his eyebrows, you wanted to
climb a tree first, and find out what the matter was afterwards. He didn't
ever have to tell anybody to mind their manners-everybody was always
goodmannered where he was. Everybody loved to have him around, too; he was
sunshine most always-I mean he made it seem like good weather. When he
turned into a cloudbank it was awful dark for half a minute, and that was
enough; there wouldn't nothing go wrong again for a week.
When him and the old lady come down in the morning all the family got
up out of their chairs and give them good-day, and didn't set down again
till they had set down. Then Tom and Bob went to the sideboard where the
decanter was, and mixed a glass of bitters and handed it to him, and he
held it in his hand and waited till Tom's and Bob's was mixed, and then
they bowed and said, "Our duty to you, sir, and madam;" and THEY bowed the
least bit in the world and said thank you, and so they drank, all three,
and Bob and Tom poured a spoonful of water on the sugar and the mite of
whisky or apple brandy in the bottom of their tumblers, and give it to me
and Buck, and we drank to the old people too.
Bob was the oldest and Tom next-tall, beautiful men with very broad
shoulders and brown faces, and long black hair and black eyes. They
dressed in white linen from head to foot, like the old gentleman, and wore
broad Panama hats.
Then there was Miss Charlotte; she was twentyfive, and tall and proud
and grand, but as good as she could be when she warn't stirred up; but
when she was she had a look that would make you wilt in your tracks, like
her father. She was beautiful.
So was her sister, Miss Sophia, but it was a different kind. She was
gentle and sweet like a dove, and she was only twenty.
Each person had their own nigger to wait on them-Buck too. My nigger
had a monstrous easy time, because I warn't used to having anybody do
anything for me, but Buck's was on the jump most of the time.
This was all there was of the family now, but there used to be
more-three sons; they got killed; and Emmeline that died.
The old gentleman owned a lot of farms and over a hundred niggers.
Sometimes a stack of people would come there, horseback, from ten or
fifteen mile around, and stay five or six days, and have such junketings
round about and on the river, and dances and picnics in the woods
daytimes, and balls at the house nights. These people was mostly kinfolks
of the family. The men brought their guns with them. It was a handsome lot
of quality, I tell you.
There was another clan of aristocracy around there-five or six
families-mostly of the name of Shepherdson. They was as high-toned and
well born and rich and grand as the tribe of Grangerfords. The
Shepherdsons and Grangerfords used the same steamboat landing, which was
about two mile above our house; so sometimes when I went up there with a
lot of our folks I used to see a lot of the Shepherdsons there on their
fine horses.
One day Buck and me was away out in the woods hunting, and heard a
horse coming. We was crossing the road. Buck says:
"Quick! Jump for the woods!"
We done it, and then peeped down the woods through the leaves. Pretty
soon a splendid young man come galloping down the road, setting his horse
easy and looking like a soldier. He had his gun across his pommel. I had
seen him before. It was young Harney Shepherdson. I heard Buck's gun go
off at my ear, and Harney's hat tumbled off from his head. He grabbed his
gun and rode straight to the place where we was hid. But we didn't wait.
We started through the woods on a run. The woods warn't thick, so I looked
over my shoulder to dodge the bullet, and twice I seen Harney cover Buck
with his gun; and then he rode away the way he come-to get his hat, I
reckon, but I couldn't see. We never stopped running till we got home. The
old gentleman's eyes blazed a minute-'twas pleasure, mainly, I judged-then
his face sort of smoothed down, and he says, kind of gentle:
"I don't like that shooting from behind a bush. Why didn't you step
into the road, my boy?"
"The Shepherdsons don't, father. They always take advantage."
Miss Charlotte she held her head up like a queen while Buck was telling
his tale, and her nostrils spread and her eyes snapped. The two young men
looked dark, but never said nothing. Miss Sophia she turned pale, but the
color come back when she found the man warn't hurt.
Soon as I could get Buck down by the corn-cribs under the trees by
ourselves, I says:
"Did you want to kill him, Buck?"
"Well, I bet I did."
"What did he do to you?"
"Him? He never done nothing to me."
"Well, then, what did you want to kill him for?"
"Why, nothing-only it's on account of the feud."
"What's a feud?"
"Why, where was you raised? Don't you know what a feud is?"
"Never heard of it before-tell me about it."
"Well," says Buck, "a feud is this way: A man has a quarrel with
another man, and kills him; then that other man's brother kills HIM; then
the other brothers, on both sides, goes for one another; then the COUSINS
chip in-and by and by everybody's killed off, and there ain't no more
feud. But it's kind of slow, and takes a long time."
"Has this one been going on long, Buck?"
"Well, I should RECKON! It started thirty year ago, or som'ers along
there. There was trouble 'bout something, and then a lawsuit to settle it;
and the suit went agin one of the men, and so he up and shot the man that
won the suit-which he would naturally do, of course. Anybody would."
"What was the trouble about, Buck?-land?"
"I reckon maybe-I don't know."
"Well, who done the shooting? Was it a Grangerford or a Shepherdson?"
"Laws, how do I know? It was so long ago."
"Don't anybody know?"
"Oh, yes, pa knows, I reckon, and some of the other old people; but
they don't know now what the row was about in the first place."
"Has there been many killed, Buck?"
"Yes; right smart chance of funerals. But they don't always kill. Pa's
got a few buckshot in him; but he don't mind it 'cuz he don't weigh much,
anyway. Bob's been carved up some with a bowie, and Tom's been hurt once
or twice."
"Has anybody been killed this year, Buck?"
"Yes; we got one and they got one. 'Bout three months ago my cousin
Bud, fourteen year old, was riding through the woods on t'other side of
the river, and didn't have no weapon with him, which was blame'
foolishness, and in a lonesome place he hears a horse a-coming behind him,
and sees old Baldy Shepherdson a-linkin' after him with his gun in his
hand and his white hair a-flying in the wind; and 'stead of jumping off
and taking to the brush, Bud 'lowed he could outrun him; so they had it,
nip and tuck, for five mile or more, the old man a-gaining all the time;
so at last Bud seen it warn't any use, so he stopped and faced around so
as to have the bullet holes in front, you know, and the old man he rode up
and shot him down. But he didn't git much chance to enjoy his luck, for
inside of a week our folks laid HIM out."
"I reckon that old man was a coward, Buck."
"I reckon he WARN'T a coward. Not by a blame' sight. There ain't a
coward amongst them Shepherdsons-not a one. And there ain't no cowards
amongst the Grangerfords either. Why, that old man kep' up his end in a
fight one day for half an hour against three Grangerfords, and come out
winner. They was all a-horseback; he lit off of his horse and got behind a
little woodpile, and kep' his horse before him to stop the bullets; but
the Grangerfords stayed on their horses and capered around the old man,
and peppered away at him, and he peppered away at them. Him and his horse
both went home pretty leaky and crippled, but the Grangerfords had to be
FETCHED home-and one of 'em was dead, and another died the next day. No,
sir; if a body's out hunting for cowards he don't want to fool away any
time amongst them Shepherdsons, becuz they don't breed any of that KIND."
Next Sunday we all went to church, about three mile, everybody
a-horseback. The men took their guns along, so did Buck, and kept them
between their knees or stood them handy against the wall. The Shepherdsons
done the same. It was pretty ornery preaching-all about brotherly love,
and such-like tiresomeness; but everybody said it was a good sermon, and
they all talked it over going home, and had such a powerful lot to say
about faith and good works and free grace and preforeordestination, and I
don't know what all, that it did seem to me to be one of the roughest
Sundays I had run across yet.
About an hour after dinner everybody was dozing around, some in their
chairs and some in their rooms, and it got to be pretty dull. Buck and a
dog was stretched out on the grass in the sun sound asleep. I went up to
our room, and judged I would take a nap myself. I found that sweet Miss
Sophia standing in her door, which was next to ours, and she took me in
her room and shut the door very soft, and asked me if I liked her, and I
said I did; and she asked me if I would do something for her and not tell
anybody, and I said I would. Then she said she'd forgot her Testament, and
left it in the seat at church between two other books, and would I slip
out quiet and go there and fetch it to her, and not say nothing to nobody.
I said I would. So I slid out and slipped off up the road, and there
warn't anybody at the church, except maybe a hog or two, for there warn't
any lock on the door, and hogs likes a puncheon floor in summer-time
because it's cool. If you notice, most folks don't go to church only when
they've got to; but a hog is different.
Says I to myself, something's up; it ain't natural for a girl to be in
such a sweat about a Testament. So I give it a shake, and out drops a
little piece of paper with "HALF-PAST TWO" wrote on it with a pencil. I
ransacked it, but couldn't find anything else. I couldn't make anything
out of that, so I put the paper in the book again, and when I got home and
upstairs there was Miss Sophia in her door waiting for me. She pulled me
in and shut the door; then she looked in the Testament till she found the
paper, and as soon as she read it she looked glad; and before a body could
think she grabbed me and give me a squeeze, and said I was the best boy in
the world, and not to tell anybody. She was mighty red in the face for a
minute, and her eyes lighted up, and it made her powerful pretty. I was a
good deal astonished, but when I got my breath I asked her what the paper
was about, and she asked me if I had read it, and I said no, and she asked
me if I could read writing, and I told her "no, only coarse-hand," and
then she said the paper warn't anything but a book-mark to keep her place,
and I might go and play now.
I went off down to the river, studying over this thing, and pretty soon
I noticed that my nigger was following along behind. When we was out of
sight of the house he looked back and around a second, and then comes
a-running, and says:
"Mars Jawge, if you'll come down into de swamp I'll show you a whole
stack o' water-moccasins."
Thinks I, that's mighty curious; he said that yesterday. He oughter
know a body don't love watermoccasins enough to go around hunting for
them. What is he up to, anyway? So I says:
"All right; trot ahead."
I followed a half a mile; then he struck out over the swamp, and waded
ankle deep as much as another half-mile. We come to a little flat piece of
land which was dry and very thick with trees and bushes and vines, and he
says:
"You shove right in dah jist a few steps, Mars Jawge; dah's whah dey
is. I's seed 'm befo'; I don't k'yer to see 'em no mo'."
Then he slopped right along and went away, and pretty soon the trees
hid him. I poked into the place a-ways and come to a little open patch as
big as a bedroom all hung around with vines, and found a man laying there
asleep-and, by jings, it was my old Jim!
I waked him up, and I reckoned it was going to be a grand surprise to
him to see me again, but it warn't. He nearly cried he was so glad, but he
warn't surprised. Said he swum along behind me that night, and heard me
yell every time, but dasn't answer, because he didn't want nobody to pick
HIM up and take him into slavery again. Says he:
"I got hurt a little, en couldn't swim fas', so I wuz a considable ways
behine you towards de las'; when you landed I reck'ned I could ketch up
wid you on de lan' 'dout havin' to shout at you, but when I see dat house
I begin to go slow. I 'uz off too fur to hear what dey say to you-I wuz
'fraid o' de dogs; but when it 'uz all quiet agin I knowed you's in de
house, so I struck out for de woods to wait for day. Early in de mawnin'
some er de niggers come along, gwyne to de fields, en dey tuk me en showed
me dis place, whah de dogs can't track me on accounts o' de water, en dey
brings me truck to eat every night, en tells me how you's a-gitt'n along."
"Why didn't you tell my Jack to fetch me here sooner, Jim?"
"Well, 'twarn't no use to 'sturb you, Huck, tell we could do sumfn-but
we's all right now. I ben abuyin' pots en pans en vittles, as I got a
chanst, en apatchin' up de raf' nights when-"
"WHAT raft, Jim?"
"Our ole raf'."
"You mean to say our old raft warn't smashed all to flinders?"
"No, she warn't. She was tore up a good deal-one en' of her was; but
dey warn't no great harm done, on'y our traps was mos' all los'. Ef we
hadn' dive' so deep en swum so fur under water, en de night hadn' ben so
dark, en we warn't so sk'yerd, en ben sich punkin-heads, as de sayin' is,
we'd a seed de raf'. But it's jis' as well we didn't, 'kase now she's all
fixed up agin mos' as good as new, en we's got a new lot o' stuff, in de
place o' what 'uz los'."
"Why, how did you get hold of the raft again, Jim-did you catch her?"
"How I gwyne to ketch her en I out in de woods? No; some er de niggers
foun' her ketched on a snag along heah in de ben', en dey hid her in a
crick 'mongst de willows, en dey wuz so much jawin' 'bout which un 'um she
b'long to de mos' dat I come to heah 'bout it pooty soon, so I ups en
settles de trouble by tellin' 'um she don't b'long to none uv um, but to
you en me; en I ast 'm if dey gwyne to grab a young white genlman's
propaty, en git a hid'n for it? Den I gin 'm ten cents apiece, en dey 'uz
mighty well satisfied, en wisht some mo' raf's 'ud come along en make 'm
rich agin. Dey's mighty good to me, dese niggers is, en whatever I wants
'm to do fur me I doan' have to ast 'm twice, honey. Dat Jack's a good
nigger, en pooty smart."
"Yes, he is. He ain't ever told me you was here; told me to come, and
he'd show me a lot of watermoccasins. If anything happens HE ain't mixed
up in it. He can say he never seen us together, and it 'll be the truth."
I don't want to talk much about the next day. I reckon I'll cut it
pretty short. I waked up about dawn, and was a-going to turn over and go
to sleep again when I noticed how still it was-didn't seem to be anybody
stirring. That warn't usual. Next I noticed that Buck was up and gone.
Well, I gets up, a-wondering, and goes down stairs-nobody around;
everything as still as a mouse. Just the same outside. Thinks I, what does
it mean? Down by the woodpile I comes across my Jack, and says:
"What's it all about?"
Says he:
"Don't you know, Mars Jawge?"
"No," says I, "I don't."
"Well, den, Miss Sophia's run off! 'deed she has. She run off in de
night some time-nobody don't know jis' when; run off to get married to dat
young Harney Shepherdson, you know-leastways, so dey 'spec. De fambly
foun' it out 'bout half an hour ago-maybe a little mo'-en' I TELL you dey
warn't no time los'. Sich another hurryin' up guns en hosses YOU never
see! De women folks has gone for to stir up de relations, en ole Mars Saul
en de boys tuck dey guns en rode up de river road for to try to ketch dat
young man en kill him 'fo' he kin git acrost de river wid Miss Sophia. I
reck'n dey's gwyne to be mighty rough times."
"Buck went off 'thout waking me up."
"Well, I reck'n he DID! Dey warn't gwyne to mix you up in it. Mars Buck
he loaded up his gun en 'lowed he's gwyne to fetch home a Shepherdson or
bust. Well, dey'll be plenty un 'm dah, I reck'n, en you bet you he'll
fetch one ef he gits a chanst."
I took up the river road as hard as I could put. By and by I begin to
hear guns a good ways off. When I came in sight of the log store and the
woodpile where the steamboats lands I worked along under the trees and
brush till I got to a good place, and then I clumb up into the forks of a
cottonwood that was out of reach, and watched. There was a wood-rank four
foot high a little ways in front of the tree, and first I was going to
hide behind that; but maybe it was luckier I didn't.
There was four or five men cavorting around on their horses in the open
place before the log store, cussing and yelling, and trying to get at a
couple of young chaps that was behind the wood-rank alongside of the
steamboat landing; but they couldn't come it. Every time one of them
showed himself on the river side of the woodpile he got shot at. The two
boys was squatting back to back behind the pile, so they could watch both
ways.
By and by the men stopped cavorting around and yelling. They started
riding towards the store; then up gets one of the boys, draws a steady
bead over the wood-rank, and drops one of them out of his saddle. All the
men jumped off of their horses and grabbed the hurt one and started to
carry him to the store; and that minute the two boys started on the run.
They got half way to the tree I was in before the men noticed. Then the
men see them, and jumped on their horses and took out after them. They
gained on the boys, but it didn't do no good, the boys had too good a
start; they got to the woodpile that was in front of my tree, and slipped
in behind it, and so they had the bulge on the men again. One of the boys
was Buck, and the other was a slim young chap about nineteen years old.
The men ripped around awhile, and then rode away. As soon as they was
out of sight I sung out to Buck and told him. He didn't know what to make
of my voice coming out of the tree at first. He was awful surprised. He
told me to watch out sharp and let him know when the men come in sight
again; said they was up to some devilment or other-wouldn't be gone long.
I wished I was out of that tree, but I dasn't come down. Buck begun to cry
and rip, and 'lowed that him and his cousin Joe (that was the other young
chap) would make up for this day yet. He said his father and his two
brothers was killed, and two or three of the enemy. Said the Shepherdsons
laid for them in ambush. Buck said his father and brothers ought to waited
for their relations-the Shepherdsons was too strong for them. I asked him
what was become of young Harney and Miss Sophia. He said they'd got across
the river and was safe. I was glad of that; but the way Buck did take on
because he didn't manage to kill Harney that day he shot at him-I hain't
ever heard anything like it.
All of a sudden, bang! bang! bang! goes three or four guns-the men had
slipped around through the woods and come in from behind without their
horses! The boys jumped for the river-both of them hurt-and as they swum
down the current the men run along the bank shooting at them and singing
out, "Kill them, kill them!" It made me so sick I most fell out of the
tree. I ain't a-going to tell ALL that happened-it would make me sick
again if I was to do that. I wished I hadn't ever come ashore that night
to see such things. I ain't ever going to get shut of them-lots of times I
dream about them.
I stayed in the tree till it begun to get dark, afraid to come down.
Sometimes I heard guns away off in the woods; and twice I seen little
gangs of men gallop past the log store with guns; so I reckoned the
trouble was still a-going on. I was mighty downhearted; so I made up my
mind I wouldn't ever go anear that house again, because I reckoned I was
to blame, somehow. I judged that that piece of paper meant that Miss
Sophia was to meet Harney somewheres at half-past two and run off; and I
judged I ought to told her father about that paper and the curious way she
acted, and then maybe he would a locked her up, and this awful mess
wouldn't ever happened.
When I got down out of the tree I crept along down the river bank a
piece, and found the two bodies laying in the edge of the water, and
tugged at them till I got them ashore; then I covered up their faces, and
got away as quick as I could. I cried a little when I was covering up
Buck's face, for he was mighty good to me.
It was just dark now. I never went near the house, but struck through
the woods and made for the swamp. Jim warn't on his island, so I tramped
off in a hurry for the crick, and crowded through the willows, red-hot to
jump aboard and get out of that awful country. The raft was gone! My
souls, but I was scared! I couldn't get my breath for most a minute. Then
I raised a yell. A voice not twenty-five foot from me says:
"Good lan'! is dat you, honey? Doan' make no noise."
It was Jim's voice-nothing ever sounded so good before. I run along the
bank a piece and got aboard, and Jim he grabbed me and hugged me, he was
so glad to see me. He says:
"Laws bless you, chile, I 'uz right down sho' you's dead agin. Jack's
been heah; he say he reck'n you's ben shot, kase you didn' come home no
mo'; so I's jes' dis minute a startin' de raf' down towards de mouf er de
crick, so's to be all ready for to shove out en leave soon as Jack comes
agin en tells me for certain you IS dead. Lawsy, I's mighty glad to git
you back again, honey.
I says:
"All right-that's mighty good; they won't find me, and they'll think
I've been killed, and floated down the river-there's something up there
that 'll help them think so-so don't you lose no time, Jim, but just shove
off for the big water as fast as ever you can."
I never felt easy till the raft was two mile below there and out in the
middle of the Mississippi. Then we hung up our signal lantern, and judged
that we was free and safe once more. I hadn't had a bite to eat since
yesterday, so Jim he got out some corn-dodgers and buttermilk, and pork
and cabbage and greens-there ain't nothing in the world so good when it's
cooked right-and whilst I eat my supper we talked and had a good time. I
was powerful glad to get away from the feuds, and so was Jim to get away
from the swamp. We said there warn't no home like a raft, after all. Other
places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don't. You feel
mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.