Chapter XXXIX
 
  IN the morning we went up to the village and bought a wire rat-trap and
fetched it down, and unstopped the best rat-hole, and in about an hour we
had fifteen of the bulliest kind of ones; and then we took it and put it
in a safe place under Aunt Sally's bed. But while we was gone for spiders
little Thomas Franklin Benjamin Jefferson Elexander Phelps found it there,
and opened the door of it to see if the rats would come out, and they did;
and Aunt Sally she come in, and when we got back she was a-standing on top
of the bed raising Cain, and the rats was doing what they could to keep
off the dull times for her. So she took and dusted us both with the
hickry, and we was as much as two hours catching another fifteen or
sixteen, drat that meddlesome cub, and they warn't the likeliest, nuther,
because the first haul was the pick of the flock. I never see a likelier
lot of rats than what that first haul was.
We got a splendid stock of sorted spiders, and bugs, and frogs, and
caterpillars, and one thing or another; and we like to got a hornet's
nest, but we didn't. The family was at home. We didn't give it right up,
but stayed with them as long as we could; because we allowed we'd tire
them out or they'd got to tire us out, and they done it. Then we got
allycumpain and rubbed on the places, and was pretty near all right again,
but couldn't set down convenient. And so we went for the snakes, and
grabbed a couple of dozen garters and house-snakes, and put them in a bag,
and put it in our room, and by that time it was suppertime, and a rattling
good honest day's work: and hungry?-oh, no, I reckon not! And there warn't
a blessed snake up there when we went back-we didn't half tie the sack,
and they worked out somehow, and left. But it didn't matter much, because
they was still on the premises somewheres. So we judged we could get some
of them again. No, there warn't no real scarcity of snakes about the house
for a considerable spell. You'd see them dripping from the rafters and
places every now and then; and they generly landed in your plate, or down
the back of your neck, and most of the time where you didn't want them.
Well, they was handsome and striped, and there warn't no harm in a million
of them; but that never made no difference to Aunt Sally; she despised
snakes, be the breed what they might, and she couldn't stand them no way
you could fix it; and every time one of them flopped down on her, it
didn't make no difference what she was doing, she would just lay that work
down and light out. I never see such a woman. And you could hear her whoop
to Jericho. You couldn't get her to take a-holt of one of them with the
tongs. And if she turned over and found one in bed she would scramble out
and lift a howl that you would think the house was afire. She disturbed
the old man so that he said he could most wish there hadn't ever been no
snakes created. Why, after every last snake had been gone clear out of the
house for as much as a week Aunt Sally warn't over it yet; she warn't near
over it; when she was setting thinking about something you could touch her
on the back of her neck with a feather and she would jump right out of her
stockings. It was very curious. But Tom said all women was just so. He
said they was made that way for some reason or other.
We got a licking every time one of our snakes come in her way, and she
allowed these lickings warn't nothing to what she would do if we ever
loaded up the place again with them. I didn't mind the lickings, because
they didn't amount to nothing; but I minded the trouble we had to lay in
another lot. But we got them laid in, and all the other things; and you
never see a cabin as blithesome as Jim's was when they'd all swarm out for
music and go for him. Jim didn't like the spiders, and the spiders didn't
like Jim; and so they'd lay for him, and make it mighty warm for him. And
he said that between the rats and the snakes and the grindstone there
warn't no room in bed for him, skasely; and when there was, a body
couldn't sleep, it was so lively, and it was always lively, he said,
because THEY never all slept at one time, but took turn about, so when the
snakes was asleep the rats was on deck, and when the rats turned in the
snakes come on watch, so he always had one gang under him, in his way, and
t'other gang having a circus over him, and if he got up to hunt a new
place the spiders would take a chance at him as he crossed over. He said
if he ever got out this time he wouldn't ever be a prisoner again, not for
a salary.
Well, by the end of three weeks everything was in pretty good shape.
The shirt was sent in early, in a pie, and every time a rat bit Jim he
would get up and write a little in his journal whilst the ink was fresh;
the pens was made, the inscriptions and so on was all carved on the
grindstone; the bed-leg was sawed in two, and we had et up the sawdust,
and it give us a most amazing stomach-ache. We reckoned we was all going
to die, but didn't. It was the most undigestible sawdust I ever see; and
Tom said the same. But as I was saying, we'd got all the work done now, at
last; and we was all pretty much fagged out, too, but mainly Jim. The old
man had wrote a couple of times to the plantation below Orleans to come
and get their runaway nigger, but hadn't got no answer, because there
warn't no such plantation; so he allowed he would advertise Jim in the St.
Louis and New Orleans papers; and when he mentioned the St. Louis ones it
give me the cold shivers, and I see we hadn't no time to lose. So Tom
said, now for the nonnamous letters.
"What's them?" I says.
"Warnings to the people that something is up. Sometimes it's done one
way, sometimes another. But there's always somebody spying around that
gives notice to the governor of the castle. When Louis XVI. was going to
light out of the Tooleries a servantgirl done it. It's a very good way,
and so is the nonnamous letters. We'll use them both. And it's usual for
the prisoner's mother to change clothes with him, and she stays in, and he
slides out in her clothes. We'll do that, too."
"But looky here, Tom, what do we want to WARN anybody for that
something's up? Let them find it out for themselves-it's their lookout."
"Yes, I know; but you can't depend on them. It's the way they've acted
from the very start-left us to do EVERYTHING. They're so confiding and
mulletheaded they don't take notice of nothing at all. So if we don't GIVE
them notice there won't be nobody nor nothing to interfere with us, and so
after all our hard work and trouble this escape 'll go off perfectly flat;
won't amount to nothing-won't be nothing TO it."
"Well, as for me, Tom, that's the way I'd like."
"Shucks!" he says, and looked disgusted. So I says:
"But I ain't going to make no complaint. Any way that suits you suits
me. What you going to do about the servant-girl?"
"You'll be her. You slide in, in the middle of the night, and hook that
yaller girl's frock."
"Why, Tom, that 'll make trouble next morning; because, of course, she
prob'bly hain't got any but that one."
"I know; but you don't want it but fifteen minutes, to carry the
nonnamous letter and shove it under the front door."
"All right, then, I'll do it; but I could carry it just as handy in my
own togs."
"You wouldn't look like a servant-girl THEN, would you?"
"No, but there won't be nobody to see what I look like, ANYWAY."
"That ain't got nothing to do with it. The thing for us to do is just
to do our DUTY, and not worry about whether anybody SEES us do it or not.
Hain't you got no principle at all?"
"All right, I ain't saying nothing; I'm the servantgirl. Who's Jim's
mother?"
"I'm his mother. I'll hook a gown from Aunt Sally."
"Well, then, you'll have to stay in the cabin when me and Jim leaves."
"Not much. I'll stuff Jim's clothes full of straw and lay it on his bed
to represent his mother in disguise, and Jim 'll take the nigger woman's
gown off of me and wear it, and we'll all evade together. When a prisoner
of style escapes it's called an evasion. It's always called so when a king
escapes, f'rinstance. And the same with a king's son; it don't make no
difference whether he's a natural one or an unnatural one."
So Tom he wrote the nonnamous letter, and I smouched the yaller wench's
frock that night, and put it on, and shoved it under the front door, the
way Tom told me to. It said:
Beware. Trouble is brewing. Keep a sharp lookout.
UNKNOWN FRIEND.
Next night we stuck a picture, which Tom drawed in blood, of a skull
and crossbones on the front door; and next night another one of a coffin
on the back door. I never see a family in such a sweat. They couldn't a
been worse scared if the place had a been full of ghosts laying for them
behind everything and under the beds and shivering through the air. If a
door banged, Aunt Sally she jumped and said "ouch!" if anything fell, she
jumped and said "ouch!" if you happened to touch her, when she warn't
noticing, she done the same; she couldn't face noway and be satisfied,
because she allowed there was something behind her every time-so she was
always a-whirling around sudden, and saying "ouch," and before she'd got
two-thirds around she'd whirl back again, and say it again; and she was
afraid to go to bed, but she dasn't set up. So the thing was working very
well, Tom said; he said he never see a thing work more satisfactory. He
said it showed it was done right.
So he said, now for the grand bulge! So the very next morning at the
streak of dawn we got another letter ready, and was wondering what we
better do with it, because we heard them say at supper they was going to
have a nigger on watch at both doors all night. Tom he went down the
lightning-rod to spy around; and the nigger at the back door was asleep,
and he stuck it in the back of his neck and come back. This letter said:
Don't betray me, I wish to be your friend. There is a desprate gang of
cut-throats from over in the Indian Territory going to steal your runaway
nigger to-night, and they have been trying to scare you so as you will
stay in the house and not bother them. I am one of the gang, but have got
religgion and wish to quit it and lead an honest life again, and will
betray the helish design. They will sneak down from northards, along the
fence, at midnight exact, with a false key, and go in the nigger's cabin
to get him. I am to be off a piece and blow a tin horn if I see any
danger; but stead of that I will BA like a sheep soon as they get in and
not blow at all; then whilst they are getting his chains loose, you slip
there and lock them in, and can kill them at your leasure. Don't do
anything but just the way I am telling you; if you do they will suspicion
something and raise whoop-jamboreehoo. I do not wish any reward but to
know I have done the right thing.
UNKNOWN FRIEND.