Chapter XXVIII
 
BY and by it was getting-up time. So I come down the ladder and started
for down-stairs; but as I come to the girls' room the door was open, and I
see Mary Jane setting by her old hair trunk, which was open and she'd been
packing things in it-getting ready to go to England. But she had stopped
now with a folded gown in her lap, and had her face in her hands, crying.
I felt awful bad to see it; of course anybody would. I went in there and
says:
"Miss Mary Jane, you can't a-bear to see people in trouble, and I
can't-most always. Tell me about it."
So she done it. And it was the niggers-I just expected it. She said the
beautiful trip to England was most about spoiled for her; she didn't know
HOW she was ever going to be happy there, knowing the mother and the
children warn't ever going to see each other no more-and then busted out
bitterer than ever, and flung up her hands, and says:
"Oh, dear, dear, to think they ain't EVER going to see each other any
more!"
"But they WILL-and inside of two weeks-and I KNOW it!" says I.
Laws, it was out before I could think! And before I could budge she
throws her arms around my neck and told me to say it AGAIN, say it AGAIN,
say it AGAIN!
I see I had spoke too sudden and said too much, and was in a close
place. I asked her to let me think a minute; and she set there, very
impatient and excited and handsome, but looking kind of happy and
eased-up, like a person that's had a tooth pulled out. So I went to
studying it out. I says to myself, I reckon a body that ups and tells the
truth when he is in a tight place is taking considerable many resks,
though I ain't had no experience, and can't say for certain; but it looks
so to me, anyway; and yet here's a case where I'm blest if it don't look
to me like the truth is better and actuly SAFER than a lie. I must lay it
by in my mind, and think it over some time or other, it's so kind of
strange and unregular. I never see nothing like it. Well, I says to myself
at last, I'm a-going to chance it; I'll up and tell the truth this time,
though it does seem most like setting down on a kag of powder and touching
it off just to see where you'll go to. Then I says:
"Miss Mary Jane, is there any place out of town a little ways where you
could go and stay three or four days?"
"Yes; Mr. Lothrop's. Why?"
"Never mind why yet. If I'll tell you how I know the niggers will see
each other again inside of two weeks-here in this house-and PROVE how I
know it-will you go to Mr. Lothrop's and stay four days?"
"Four days!" she says; "I'll stay a year!"
"All right," I says, "I don't want nothing more out of YOU than just
your word-I druther have it than another man's kiss-the-Bible." She smiled
and reddened up very sweet, and I says, "If you don't mind it, I'll shut
the door-and bolt it."
Then I come back and set down again, and says:
"Don't you holler. Just set still and take it like a man. I got to tell
the truth, and you want to brace up, Miss Mary, because it's a bad kind,
and going to be hard to take, but there ain't no help for it. These uncles
of yourn ain't no uncles at all; they're a couple of frauds-regular
dead-beats. There, now we're over the worst of it, you can stand the rest
middling easy."
It jolted her up like everything, of course; but I was over the shoal
water now, so I went right along, her eyes a-blazing higher and higher all
the time, and told her every blame thing, from where we first struck that
young fool going up to the steamboat, clear through to where she flung
herself on to the king's breast at the front door and he kissed her
sixteen or seventeen times-and then up she jumps, with her face afire like
sunset, and says:
"The brute! Come, don't waste a minute-not a SECOND-we'll have them
tarred and feathered, and flung in the river!"
Says I:
"Cert'nly. But do you mean BEFORE you go to Mr. Lothrop's, or-"
"Oh," she says, "what am I THINKING about!" she says, and set right
down again. "Don't mind what I said-please don't-you WON'T, now, WILL
you?" Laying her silky hand on mine in that kind of a way that I said I
would die first. "I never thought, I was so stirred up," she says; "now go
on, and I won't do so any more. You tell me what to do, and whatever you
say I'll do it."
"Well," I says, "it's a rough gang, them two frauds, and I'm fixed so I
got to travel with them a while longer, whether I want to or not-I druther
not tell you why; and if you was to blow on them this town would get me
out of their claws, and I'd be all right; but there'd be another person
that you don't know about who'd be in big trouble. Well, we got to save
HIM, hain't we? Of course. Well, then, we won't blow on them."
Saying them words put a good idea in my head. I see how maybe I could
get me and Jim rid of the frauds; get them jailed here, and then leave.
But I didn't want to run the raft in the daytime without anybody aboard to
answer questions but me; so I didn't want the plan to begin working till
pretty late to-night. I says:
"Miss Mary Jane, I'll tell you what we'll do, and you won't have to
stay at Mr. Lothrop's so long, nuther. How fur is it?"
"A little short of four miles-right out in the country, back here."
"Well, that 'll answer. Now you go along out there, and lay low till
nine or half-past to-night, and then get them to fetch you home again-tell
them you've thought of something. If you get here before eleven put a
candle in this window, and if I don't turn up wait TILL eleven, and THEN
if I don't turn up it means I'm gone, and out of the way, and safe. Then
you come out and spread the news around, and get these beats jailed."
"Good," she says, "I'll do it."
"And if it just happens so that I don't get away, but get took up along
with them, you must up and say I told you the whole thing beforehand, and
you must stand by me all you can."
"Stand by you! indeed I will. They sha'n't touch a hair of your head!"
she says, and I see her nostrils spread and her eyes snap when she said
it, too.
"If I get away I sha'n't be here," I says, "to prove these rapscallions
ain't your uncles, and I couldn't do it if I WAS here. I could swear they
was beats and bummers, that's all, though that's worth something. Well,
there's others can do that better than what I can, and they're people that
ain't going to be doubted as quick as I'd be. I'll tell you how to find
them. Gimme a pencil and a piece of paper. There-'Royal Nonesuch,
Bricksville.' Put it away, and don't lose it. When the court wants to find
out something about these two, let them send up to Bricksville and say
they've got the men that played the Royal Nonesuch, and ask for some
witnesses-why, you'll have that entire town down here before you can
hardly wink, Miss Mary. And they'll come a-biling, too."
I judged we had got everything fixed about right now. So I says:
"Just let the auction go right along, and don't worry. Nobody don't
have to pay for the things they buy till a whole day after the auction on
accounts of the short notice, and they ain't going out of this till they
get that money; and the way we've fixed it the sale ain't going to count,
and they ain't going to get no money. It's just like the way it was with
the niggers-it warn't no sale, and the niggers will be back before long.
Why, they can't collect the money for the NIGGERS yet-they're in the worst
kind of a fix, Miss Mary."
"Well," she says, "I'll run down to breakfast now, and then I'll start
straight for Mr. Lothrop's."
"'Deed, THAT ain't the ticket, Miss Mary Jane," I says, "by no manner
of means; go BEFORE breakfast."
"Why?"
"What did you reckon I wanted you to go at all for, Miss Mary?"
"Well, I never thought-and come to think, I don't know. What was it?"
"Why, it's because you ain't one of these leatherface people. I don't
want no better book than what your face is. A body can set down and read
it off like coarse print. Do you reckon you can go and face your uncles
when they come to kiss you goodmorning, and never-"
"There, there, don't! Yes, I'll go before breakfast-I'll be glad to.
And leave my sisters with them?"
"Yes; never mind about them. They've got to stand it yet a while. They
might suspicion something if all of you was to go. I don't want you to see
them, nor your sisters, nor nobody in this town; if a neighbor was to ask
how is your uncles this morning your face would tell something. No, you go
right along, Miss Mary Jane, and I'll fix it with all of them. I'll tell
Miss Susan to give your love to your uncles and say you've went away for a
few hours for to get a little rest and change, or to see a friend, and
you'll be back to-night or early in the morning."
"Gone to see a friend is all right, but I won't have my love given to
them."
"Well, then, it sha'n't be." It was well enough to tell HER so-no harm
in it. It was only a little thing to do, and no trouble; and it's the
little things that smooths people's roads the most, down here below; it
would make Mary Jane comfortable, and it wouldn't cost nothing. Then I
says: "There's one more thing-that bag of money."
"Well, they've got that; and it makes me feel pretty silly to think HOW
they got it."
"No, you're out, there. They hain't got it."
"Why, who's got it?"
"I wish I knowed, but I don't. I HAD it, because I stole it from them;
and I stole it to give to you; and I know where I hid it, but I'm afraid
it ain't there no more. I'm awful sorry, Miss Mary Jane, I'm just as sorry
as I can be; but I done the best I could; I did honest. I come nigh
getting caught, and I had to shove it into the first place I come to, and
run-and it warn't a good place."
"Oh, stop blaming yourself-it's too bad to do it, and I won't allow
it-you couldn't help it; it wasn't your fault. Where did you hide it?"
I didn't want to set her to thinking about her troubles again; and I
couldn't seem to get my mouth to tell her what would make her see that
corpse laying in the coffin with that bag of money on his stomach. So for
a minute I didn't say nothing; then I says:
"I'd ruther not TELL you where I put it, Miss Mary Jane, if you don't
mind letting me off; but I'll write it for you on a piece of paper, and
you can read it along the road to Mr. Lothrop's, if you want to. Do you
reckon that 'll do?"
"Oh, yes."
So I wrote: "I put it in the coffin. It was in there when you was
crying there, away in the night. I was behind the door, and I was mighty
sorry for you, Miss Mary Jane."
It made my eyes water a little to remember her crying there all by
herself in the night, and them devils laying there right under her own
roof, shaming her and robbing her; and when I folded it up and give it to
her I see the water come into her eyes, too; and she shook me by the hand,
hard, and says:
"GOOD-bye. I'm going to do everything just as you've told me; and if I
don't ever see you again, I sha'n't ever forget you. and I'll think of you
a many and a many a time, and I'll PRAY for you, too!"-and she was gone.
Pray for me! I reckoned if she knowed me she'd take a job that was more
nearer her size. But I bet she done it, just the same-she was just that
kind. She had the grit to pray for Judus if she took the notion-there
warn't no back-down to her, I judge. You may say what you want to, but in
my opinion she had more sand in her than any girl I ever see; in my
opinion she was just full of sand. It sounds like flattery, but it ain't
no flattery. And when it comes to beauty-and goodness, too-she lays over
them all. I hain't ever seen her since that time that I see her go out of
that door; no, I hain't ever seen her since, but I reckon I've thought of
her a many and a many a million times, and of her saying she would pray
for me; and if ever I'd a thought it would do any good for me to pray for
HER, blamed if I wouldn't a done it or bust.
Well, Mary Jane she lit out the back way, I reckon; because nobody see
her go. When I struck Susan and the hare-lip, I says:
"What's the name of them people over on t'other side of the river that
you all goes to see sometimes?"
They says:
"There's several; but it's the Proctors, mainly."
"That's the name," I says; "I most forgot it. Well, Miss Mary Jane she
told me to tell you she's gone over there in a dreadful hurry-one of
them's sick."
"Which one?"
"I don't know; leastways, I kinder forget; but I thinks it's-"
"Sakes alive, I hope it ain't HANNER?"
"I'm sorry to say it," I says, "but Hanner's the very one."
"My goodness, and she so well only last week! Is she took bad?"
"It ain't no name for it. They set up with her all night, Miss Mary
Jane said, and they don't think she'll last many hours."
"Only think of that, now! What's the matter with her?"
I couldn't think of anything reasonable, right off that way, so I says:
"Mumps."
"Mumps your granny! They don't set up with people that's got the mumps."
"They don't, don't they? You better bet they do with THESE mumps. These
mumps is different. It's a new kind, Miss Mary Jane said."
"How's it a new kind?"
"Because it's mixed up with other things."
"What other things?"
"Well, measles, and whooping-cough, and erysiplas, and consumption, and
yaller janders, and brain-fever, and I don't know what all."
"My land! And they call it the MUMPS?"
"That's what Miss Mary Jane said."
"Well, what in the nation do they call it the MUMPS for?"
"Why, because it IS the mumps. That's what it starts with."
"Well, ther' ain't no sense in it. A body might stump his toe, and take
pison, and fall down the well, and break his neck, and bust his brains
out, and somebody come along and ask what killed him, and some numskull up
and say, 'Why, he stumped his TOE.' Would ther' be any sense in that? NO.
And ther' ain't no sense in THIS, nuther. Is it ketching?"
"Is it KETCHING? Why, how you talk. Is a HARROW catching-in the dark?
If you don't hitch on to one tooth, you're bound to on another, ain't you?
And you can't get away with that tooth without fetching the whole harrow
along, can you? Well, these kind of mumps is a kind of a harrow, as you
may say-and it ain't no slouch of a harrow, nuther, you come to get it
hitched on good."
"Well, it's awful, I think," says the hare-lip. "I'll go to Uncle
Harvey and-"
"Oh, yes," I says, "I WOULD. Of COURSE I would. I wouldn't lose no time."
"Well, why wouldn't you?"
"Just look at it a minute, and maybe you can see. Hain't your uncles
obleegd to get along home to England as fast as they can? And do you
reckon they'd be mean enough to go off and leave you to go all that
journey by yourselves? YOU know they'll wait for you. So fur, so good.
Your uncle Harvey's a preacher, ain't he? Very well, then; is a PREACHER
going to deceive a steamboat clerk? is he going to deceive a SHIP
CLERK?-so as to get them to let Miss Mary Jane go aboard? Now YOU know he
ain't. What WILL he do, then? Why, he'll say, 'It's a great pity, but my
church matters has got to get along the best way they can; for my niece
has been exposed to the dreadful pluribus-unum mumps, and so it's my
bounden duty to set down here and wait the three months it takes to show
on her if she's got it.' But never mind, if you think it's best to tell
your uncle Harvey-"
"Shucks, and stay fooling around here when we could all be having good
times in England whilst we was waiting to find out whether Mary Jane's got
it or not? Why, you talk like a muggins."
"Well, anyway, maybe you'd better tell some of the neighbors."
"Listen at that, now. You do beat all for natural stupidness. Can't you
SEE that THEY'D go and tell? Ther' ain't no way but just to not tell
anybody at ALL."
"Well, maybe you're right-yes, I judge you ARE right."
"But I reckon we ought to tell Uncle Harvey she's gone out a while,
anyway, so he won't be uneasy about her?"
"Yes, Miss Mary Jane she wanted you to do that. She says, 'Tell them to
give Uncle Harvey and William my love and a kiss, and say I've run over
the river to see Mr.'-Mr.-what IS the name of that rich family your uncle
Peter used to think so much of?-I mean the one that-"
"Why, you must mean the Apthorps, ain't it?"
"Of course; bother them kind of names, a body can't ever seem to
remember them, half the time, somehow. Yes, she said, say she has run over
for to ask the Apthorps to be sure and come to the auction and buy this
house, because she allowed her uncle Peter would ruther they had it than
anybody else; and she's going to stick to them till they say they'll come,
and then, if she ain't too tired, she's coming home; and if she is, she'll
be home in the morning anyway. She said, don't say nothing about the
Proctors, but only about the Apthorps-which 'll be perfectly true, because
she is going there to speak about their buying the house; I know it,
because she told me so herself."
"All right," they said, and cleared out to lay for their uncles, and
give them the love and the kisses, and tell them the message.
Everything was all right now. The girls wouldn't say nothing because
they wanted to go to England; and the king and the duke would ruther Mary
Jane was off working for the auction than around in reach of Doctor
Robinson. I felt very good; I judged I had done it pretty neat-I reckoned
Tom Sawyer couldn't a done it no neater himself. Of course he would a
throwed more style into it, but I can't do that very handy, not being
brung up to it.
Well, they held the auction in the public square, along towards the end
of the afternoon, and it strung along, and strung along, and the old man
he was on hand and looking his level pisonest, up there longside of the
auctioneer, and chipping in a little Scripture now and then, or a little
goody-goody saying of some kind, and the duke he was around goo-gooing for
sympathy all he knowed how, and just spreading himself generly.
But by and by the thing dragged through, and everything was
sold-everything but a little old trifling lot in the graveyard. So they'd
got to work that off-I never see such a girafft as the king was for
wanting to swallow EVERYTHING. Well, whilst they was at it a steamboat
landed, and in about two minutes up comes a crowd a-whooping and yelling
and laughing and carrying on, and singing out:
"HERE'S your opposition line! here's your two sets o' heirs to old
Peter Wilks-and you pays your money and you takes your choice!"