Chapter V. A TRAGEDY IN THE WOODS
 
WE  didn't  get  done  tinkering  the  machinery  till away late in the
afternoon, and so it was so close to sundown when we got home that we
never stopped on our road, but made a break for the sycamores as tight as
we could go, to tell Jake what the delay was, and have him wait till we
could go to Brace's and find out how things was there. It was getting
pretty dim by the time we turned the corner of the woods, sweating and
panting with that long run, and see the sycamores thirty yards ahead of
us; and just then we see a couple of men run into the bunch and heard two
or three terrible screams for help. "Poor Jake is killed, sure," we says.
We was scared through and through, and broke for the tobacker field and
hid there, trembling so our clothes would hardly stay on; and just as we
skipped in there, a couple of men went tearing by, and into the bunch they
went, and in a second out jumps four men and took out up the road as tight
as they could go, two chasing two.
We laid down, kind of weak and sick, and listened for more sounds, but
didn't hear none for a good while but just our hearts. We was thinking of
that awful thing laying yonder in the sycamores, and it seemed like being
that close to a ghost, and it give me the cold shudders. The moon come
a-swelling up out of the ground, now, powerful big and round and bright,
behind a comb of trees, like a face looking through prison bars, and the
black shadders and white places begun to creep around, and it was
miserable quiet and still and night-breezy and graveyardy and scary. All
of a sudden Tom whispers:
"Look!-what's that?"
"Don't!" I says. "Don't take a person by surprise that way. I'm 'most
ready to die, anyway, without you doing that."
"Look, I tell you. It's something coming out of the sycamores."
"Don't, Tom!"
"It's terrible tall!"
"Oh, lordy-lordy! let's-"
"Keep still-it's a-coming this way."
He was so excited he could hardly get breath enough to whisper. I had
to look. I couldn't help it. So now we was both on our knees with our
chins on a fence rail and gazing-yes, and gasping too. It was coming down
the road-coming in the shadder of the trees, and you couldn't see it good;
not till it was pretty close to us; then it stepped into a bright splotch
of moonlight and we sunk right down in our tracks-it was Jake Dunlap's
ghost! That was what we said to ourselves.
We couldn't stir for a minute or two; then it was gone We talked about
it in low voices. Tom says:
"They're mostly dim and smoky, or like they're made out of fog, but
this one wasn't."
"No," I says; "I seen the goggles and the whiskers perfectly plain."
"Yes, and the very colors in them loud countrified Sunday clothes-plaid
breeches, green and black-"
"Cotton velvet westcot, fire-red and yaller squares-"
"Leather straps to the bottoms of the breeches legs and one of them
hanging unbottoned-"
"Yes, and that hat-"
"What a hat for a ghost to wear!"
You see it was the first season anybody wore that kind-a black
sitff-brim stove-pipe, very high, and not smooth, with a round top-just
like a sugar-loaf.
"Did you notice if its hair was the same, Huck?"
"No-seems to me I did, then again it seems to me I didn't."
"I didn't either; but it had its bag along, I noticed that."
"So did I. How can there be a ghost-bag, Tom?"
"Sho! I wouldn't be as ignorant as that if I was you, Huck Finn.
Whatever a ghost has, turns to ghost-stuff. They've got to have their
things, like anybody else. You see, yourself, that its clothes was turned
to ghost-stuff. Well, then, what's to hender its bag from turning, too? Of
course it done it."
That was reasonable. I couldn't find no fault with it. Bill Withers and
his brother Jack come along by, talking, and Jack says:
"What do you reckon he was toting?"
"I dunno; but it was pretty heavy."
"Yes, all he could lug. Nigger stealing corn from old Parson Silas, I
judged."
"So did I. And so I allowed I wouldn't let on to see him."
"That's me, too."
Then they both laughed, and went on out of hearing. It showed how
unpopular old Uncle Silas had got to be now. They wouldn't 'a' let a
nigger steal anybody else's corn and never done anything to him.
We heard some more voices mumbling along towards us and getting louder,
and sometimes a cackle of a laugh. It was Lem Beebe and Jim Lane. Jim Lane
says:
"Who?-Jubiter Dunlap?"
"Yes."
"Oh, I don't know. I reckon so. I seen him spading up some ground along
about an hour ago, just before sundown-him and the parson. Said he guessed
he wouldn't go to-night, but we could have his dog if we wanted him."
"Too tired, I reckon."
"Yes-works so hard!"
"Oh, you bet!"
They cackled at that, and went on by. Tom said we better jump out and
tag along after them, because they was going our way and it wouldn't be
comfortable to run across the ghost all by ourselves. So we done it, and
got home all right.
That night was the second of September-a Saturday. I sha'n't ever
forget it. You'll see why, pretty soon .