Chapter XXVI
 
   WELL,  when  they  was all gone the king he asks Mary Jane how they was
off for spare rooms, and she said she had one spare room, which would do
for Uncle William, and she'd give her own room to Uncle Harvey, which was
a little bigger, and she would turn into the room with her sisters and
sleep on a cot; and up garret was a little cubby, with a pallet in it. The
king said the cubby would do for his valley-meaning me.
So Mary Jane took us up, and she showed them their rooms, which was
plain but nice. She said she'd have her frocks and a lot of other traps
took out of her room if they was in Uncle Harvey's way, but he said they
warn't. The frocks was hung along the wall, and before them was a curtain
made out of calico that hung down to the floor. There was an old hair
trunk in one corner, and a guitar-box in another, and all sorts of little
knickknacks and jimcracks around, like girls brisken up a room with. The
king said it was all the more homely and more pleasanter for these
fixings, and so don't disturb them. The duke's room was pretty small, but
plenty good enough, and so was my cubby.
That night they had a big supper, and all them men and women was there,
and I stood behind the king and the duke's chairs and waited on them, and
the niggers waited on the rest. Mary Jane she set at the head of the
table, with Susan alongside of her, and said how bad the biscuits was, and
how mean the preserves was, and how ornery and tough the fried chickens
was-and all that kind of rot, the way women always do for to force out
compliments; and the people all knowed everything was tiptop, and said
so-said "How DO you get biscuits to brown so nice?" and "Where, for the
land's sake, DID you get these amaz'n pickles?" and all that kind of
humbug talky-talk, just the way people always does at a supper, you know.
And when it was all done me and the hare-lip had supper in the kitchen
off of the leavings, whilst the others was helping the niggers clean up
the things. The hare-lip she got to pumping me about England, and blest if
I didn't think the ice was getting mighty thin sometimes. She says:
"Did you ever see the king?"
"Who? William Fourth? Well, I bet I have-he goes to our church." I
knowed he was dead years ago, but I never let on. So when I says he goes
to our church, she says:
"What-regular?"
"Yes-regular. His pew's right over opposite ourn-on t'other side the
pulpit."
"I thought he lived in London?"
"Well, he does. Where WOULD he live?"
"But I thought YOU lived in Sheffield?"
I see I was up a stump. I had to let on to get choked with a chicken
bone, so as to get time to think how to get down again. Then I says:
"I mean he goes to our church regular when he's in Sheffield. That's
only in the summer time, when he comes there to take the sea baths."
"Why, how you talk-Sheffield ain't on the sea."
"Well, who said it was?"
"Why, you did."
"I DIDN'T nuther."
"You did!"
"I didn't."
"You did."
"I never said nothing of the kind."
"Well, what DID you say, then?"
"Said he come to take the sea BATHS-that's what I said."
"Well, then, how's he going to take the sea baths if it ain't on the
sea?"
"Looky here," I says; "did you ever see any Congress-water?"
"Yes."
"Well, did you have to go to Congress to get it?"
"Why, no."
"Well, neither does William Fourth have to go to the sea to get a sea
bath."
"How does he get it, then?"
"Gets it the way people down here gets Congresswater-in barrels. There
in the palace at Sheffield they've got furnaces, and he wants his water
hot. They can't bile that amount of water away off there at the sea. They
haven't got no conveniences for it."
"Oh, I see, now. You might a said that in the first place and saved
time."
When she said that I see I was out of the woods again, and so I was
comfortable and glad. Next, she says:
"Do you go to church, too?"
"Yes-regular."
"Where do you set?"
"Why, in our pew."
"WHOSE pew?"
"Why, OURN-your Uncle Harvey's."
"His'n? What does HE want with a pew?"
"Wants it to set in. What did you RECKON he wanted with it?"
"Why, I thought he'd be in the pulpit."
Rot him, I forgot he was a preacher. I see I was up a stump again, so I
played another chicken bone and got another think. Then I says:
"Blame it, do you suppose there ain't but one preacher to a church?"
"Why, what do they want with more?"
"What!-to preach before a king? I never did see such a girl as you.
They don't have no less than seventeen."
"Seventeen! My land! Why, I wouldn't set out such a string as that, not
if I NEVER got to glory. It must take 'em a week."
"Shucks, they don't ALL of 'em preach the same day-only ONE of 'em."
"Well, then, what does the rest of 'em do?"
"Oh, nothing much. Loll around, pass the plate-and one thing or
another. But mainly they don't do nothing."
"Well, then, what are they FOR?"
"Why, they're for STYLE. Don't you know nothing?"
"Well, I don't WANT to know no such foolishness as that. How is
servants treated in England? Do they treat 'em better 'n we treat our
niggers?"
"NO! A servant ain't nobody there. They treat them worse than dogs."
"Don't they give 'em holidays, the way we do, Christmas and New Year's
week, and Fourth of July?"
"Oh, just listen! A body could tell YOU hain't ever been to England by
that. Why, Hare-l-why, Joanna, they never see a holiday from year's end to
year's end; never go to the circus, nor theater, nor nigger shows, nor
nowheres."
"Nor church?"
"Nor church."
"But YOU always went to church."
Well, I was gone up again. I forgot I was the old man's servant. But
next minute I whirled in on a kind of an explanation how a valley was
different from a common servant and HAD to go to church whether he wanted
to or not, and set with the family, on account of its being the law. But I
didn't do it pretty good, and when I got done I see she warn't satisfied.
She says:
"Honest injun, now, hain't you been telling me a lot of lies?"
"Honest injun," says I.
"None of it at all?"
"None of it at all. Not a lie in it," says I.
"Lay your hand on this book and say it."
I see it warn't nothing but a dictionary, so I laid my hand on it and
said it. So then she looked a little better satisfied, and says:
"Well, then, I'll believe some of it; but I hope to gracious if I'll
believe the rest."
"What is it you won't believe, Joe?" says Mary Jane, stepping in with
Susan behind her. "It ain't right nor kind for you to talk so to him, and
him a stranger and so far from his people. How would you like to be
treated so?"
"That's always your way, Maim-always sailing in to help somebody before
they're hurt. I hain't done nothing to him. He's told some stretchers, I
reckon, and I said I wouldn't swallow it all; and that's every bit and
grain I DID say. I reckon he can stand a little thing like that, can't
he?"
"I don't care whether 'twas little or whether 'twas big; he's here in
our house and a stranger, and it wasn't good of you to say it. If you was
in his place it would make you feel ashamed; and so you oughtn't to say a
thing to another person that will make THEM feel ashamed."
"Why, Maim, he said-"
"It don't make no difference what he SAID-that ain't the thing. The
thing is for you to treat him KIND, and not be saying things to make him
remember he ain't in his own country and amongst his own folks."
I says to myself, THIS is a girl that I'm letting that old reptle rob
her of her money!
Then Susan SHE waltzed in; and if you'll believe me, she did give
Hare-lip hark from the tomb!
Says I to myself, and this is ANOTHER one that I'm letting him rob her
of her money!
Then Mary Jane she took another inning, and went in sweet and lovely
again-which was her way; but when she got done there warn't hardly
anything left o' poor Hare-lip. So she hollered.
"All right, then," says the other girls; "you just ask his pardon."
She done it, too; and she done it beautiful. She done it so beautiful
it was good to hear; and I wished I could tell her a thousand lies, so she
could do it again.
I says to myself, this is ANOTHER one that I'm letting him rob her of
her money. And when she got through they all jest laid theirselves out to
make me feel at home and know I was amongst friends. I felt so ornery and
low down and mean that I says to myself, my mind's made up; I'll hive that
money for them or bust.
So then I lit out-for bed, I said, meaning some time or another. When I
got by myself I went to thinking the thing over. I says to myself, shall I
go to that doctor, private, and blow on these frauds? No-that won't do. He
might tell who told him; then the king and the duke would make it warm for
me. Shall I go, private, and tell Mary Jane? No-I dasn't do it. Her face
would give them a hint, sure; they've got the money, and they'd slide
right out and get away with it. If she was to fetch in help I'd get mixed
up in the business before it was done with, I judge. No; there ain't no
good way but one. I got to steal that money, somehow; and I got to steal
it some way that they won't suspicion that I done it. They've got a good
thing here, and they ain't a-going to leave till they've played this
family and this town for all they're worth, so I'll find a chance time
enough. I'll steal it and hide it; and by and by, when I'm away down the
river, I'll write a letter and tell Mary Jane where it's hid. But I better
hive it tonight if I can, because the doctor maybe hasn't let up as much
as he lets on he has; he might scare them out of here yet.
So, thinks I, I'll go and search them rooms. Upstairs the hall was
dark, but I found the duke's room, and started to paw around it with my
hands; but I recollected it wouldn't be much like the king to let anybody
else take care of that money but his own self; so then I went to his room
and begun to paw around there. But I see I couldn't do nothing without a
candle, and I dasn't light one, of course. So I judged I'd got to do the
other thing-lay for them and eavesdrop. About that time I hears their
footsteps coming, and was going to skip under the bed; I reached for it,
but it wasn't where I thought it would be; but I touched the curtain that
hid Mary Jane's frocks, so I jumped in behind that and snuggled in amongst
the gowns, and stood there perfectly still.
They come in and shut the door; and the first thing the duke done was
to get down and look under the bed. Then I was glad I hadn't found the bed
when I wanted it. And yet, you know, it's kind of natural to hide under
the bed when you are up to anything private. They sets down then, and the
king says:
"Well, what is it? And cut it middlin' short, because it's better for
us to be down there a-whoopin' up the mournin' than up here givin' 'em a
chance to talk us over."
"Well, this is it, Capet. I ain't easy; I ain't comfortable. That
doctor lays on my mind. I wanted to know your plans. I've got a notion,
and I think it's a sound one."
"What is it, duke?"
"That we better glide out of this before three in the morning, and clip
it down the river with what we've got. Specially, seeing we got it so
easy-GIVEN back to us, flung at our heads, as you may say, when of course
we allowed to have to steal it back. I'm for knocking off and lighting
out."
That made me feel pretty bad. About an hour or two ago it would a been
a little different, but now it made me feel bad and disappointed, The king
rips out and says:
"What! And not sell out the rest o' the property? March off like a
passel of fools and leave eight or nine thous'n' dollars' worth o'
property layin' around jest sufferin' to be scooped in?-and all good,
salable stuff, too."
The duke he grumbled; said the bag of gold was enough, and he didn't
want to go no deeper-didn't want to rob a lot of orphans of EVERYTHING
they had.
"Why, how you talk!" says the king. "We sha'n't rob 'em of nothing at
all but jest this money. The people that BUYS the property is the
suff'rers; because as soon 's it's found out 'at we didn't own it-which
won't be long after we've slid-the sale won't be valid, and it 'll all go
back to the estate. These yer orphans 'll git their house back agin, and
that's enough for THEM; they're young and spry, and k'n easy earn a
livin'. THEY ain't a-goin to suffer. Why, jest think-there's thous'n's and
thous'n's that ain't nigh so well off. Bless you, THEY ain't got noth'n'
to complain of."
Well, the king he talked him blind; so at last he give in, and said all
right, but said he believed it was blamed foolishness to stay, and that
doctor hanging over them. But the king says:
"Cuss the doctor! What do we k'yer for HIM? Hain't we got all the fools
in town on our side? And ain't that a big enough majority in any town?"
So they got ready to go down stairs again. The duke says:
"I don't think we put that money in a good place."
That cheered me up. I'd begun to think I warn't going to get a hint of
no kind to help me. The king says:
"Why?"
"Because Mary Jane 'll be in mourning from this out; and first you know
the nigger that does up the rooms will get an order to box these duds up
and put 'em away; and do you reckon a nigger can run across money and not
borrow some of it?"
"Your head's level agin, duke," says the king; and he comes a-fumbling
under the curtain two or three foot from where I was. I stuck tight to the
wall and kept mighty still, though quivery; and I wondered what them
fellows would say to me if they catched me; and I tried to think what I'd
better do if they did catch me. But the king he got the bag before I could
think more than about a half a thought, and he never suspicioned I was
around. They took and shoved the bag through a rip in the straw tick that
was under the feather-bed, and crammed it in a foot or two amongst the
straw and said it was all right now, because a nigger only makes up the
feather-bed, and don't turn over the straw tick only about twice a year,
and so it warn't in no danger of getting stole now.
But I knowed better. I had it out of there before they was half-way
down stairs. I groped along up to my cubby, and hid it there till I could
get a chance to do better. I judged I better hide it outside of the house
somewheres, because if they missed it they would give the house a good
ransacking: I knowed that very well. Then I turned in, with my clothes all
on; but I couldn't a gone to sleep if I'd a wanted to, I was in such a
sweat to get through with the business. By and by I heard the king and the
duke come up; so I rolled off my pallet and laid with my chin at the top
of my ladder, and waited to see if anything was going to happen. But
nothing did.
So I held on till all the late sounds had quit and the early ones
hadn't begun yet; and then I slipped down the ladder.