Chapter VII. A NIGHT'S VIGIL
 
BENNY  she was looking pretty sober, and she sighed some, now and then;
but pretty soon she got to asking about Mary, and Sid, and Tom's aunt
Polly, and then Aunt Sally's clouds cleared off and she got in a good
humor and joined in on the questions and was her lovingest best self, and
so the rest of the supper went along gay and pleasant. But the old man he
didn't take any hand hardly, and was absent-minded and restless, and done
a considerable amount of sighing; and it was kind of heart-breaking to see
him so sad and troubled and worried.
By and by, a spell after supper, come a nigger and knocked on the door
and put his head in with his old straw hat in his hand bowing and
scraping, and said his Marse Brace was out at the stile and wanted his
brother, and was getting tired waiting supper for him, and would Marse
Silas please tell him where he was? I never see Uncle Silas speak up so
sharp and fractious before. He says:
"Am I his brother's keeper?" And then he kind of wilted together, and
looked like he wished he hadn't spoken so, and then he says, very gentle:
"But you needn't say that, Billy; I was took sudden and irritable, and I
ain't very well these days, and not hardly responsible. Tell him he ain't
here."
And when the nigger was gone he got up and walked the floor, backwards
and forwards, mumbling and muttering to himself and plowing his hands
through his hair. It was real pitiful to see him. Aunt Sally she whispered
to us and told us not to take notice of him, it embarrassed him. She said
he was always thinking and thinking, since these troubles come on, and she
allowed he didn't more'n about half know what he was about when the
thinking spells was on him; and she said he walked in his sleep
considerable more now than he used to, and sometimes wandered around over
the house and even outdoors in his sleep, and if we catched him at it we
must let him alone and not disturb him. She said she reckoned it didn't do
him no harm, and may be it done him good. She said Benny was the only one
that was much help to him these days. Said Benny appeared to know just
when to try to soothe him and when to leave him alone.
So he kept on tramping up and down the floor and muttering, till by and
by he begun to look pretty tired; then Benny she went and snuggled up to
his side and put one hand in his and one arm around his waist and walked
with him; and he smiled down on her, and reached down and kissed her; and
so, little by little the trouble went out of his face and she persuaded
him off to his room. They had very petting ways together, and it was
uncommon pretty to see.
Aunt Sally she was busy getting the children ready for bed; so by and
by it got dull and tedious, and me and Tom took a turn in the moonlight,
and fetched up in the watermelon-patch and et one, and had a good deal of
talk. And Tom said he'd bet the quarreling was all Jubiter's fault, and he
was going to be on hand the first time he got a chance, and see; and if it
was so, he was going to do his level best to get Uncle Silas to turn him
off.
And so we talked and smoked and stuffed watermelons much as two hours,
and then it was pretty late, and when we got back the house was quiet and
dark, and everybody gone to bed.
Tom he always seen everything, and now he see that the old green baize
work-gown was gone, and said it wasn't gone when he went out; so he
allowed it was curious, and then we went up to bed.
We could hear Benny stirring around in her room, which was next to
ourn, and judged she was worried a good deal about her father and couldn't
sleep. We found we couldn't, neither. So we set up a long time, and smoked
and talked in a low voice, and felt pretty dull and down-hearted. We
talked the murder and the ghost over and over again, and got so creepy and
crawly we couldn't get sleepy nohow and noway.
By and by, when it was away late in the night and all the sounds was
late sounds and solemn, Tom nudged me and whispers to me to look, and I
done it, and there we see a man poking around in the yard like he didn't
know just what he wanted to do, but it was pretty dim and we couldn't see
him good. Then he started for the stile, and as he went over it the moon
came out strong, and he had a long-handled shovel over his shoulder, and
we see the white patch on the old work-gown. So Tom says:
"He's a-walking in his sleep. I wish we was allowed to follow him and
see where he's going to. There, he's turned down by the tobacker-field.
Out of sight now. It's a dreadful pity he can't rest no better."
We waited a long time, but he didn't come back any more, or if he did
he come around the other way; so at last we was tuckered out and went to
sleep and had nightmares, a million of them. But before dawn we was awake
again, because meantime a storm had come up and been raging, and the
thunder and lightning was awful, and the wind was a-thrashing the trees
around, and the rain was driving down in slanting sheets, and the gullies
was running rivers. Tom says:
"Looky here, Huck, I'll tell you one thing that's mighty curious. Up to
the time we went out last night the family hadn't heard about Jake Dunlap
being murdered. Now the men that chased Hal Clayton and Bud Dixon away
would spread the thing around in a half an hour, and every neighbor that
heard it would shin out and fly around from one farm to t'other and try to
be the first to tell the news. Land, they don't have such a big thing as
that to tell twice in thirty year! Huck, it's mighty strange; I don't
understand it."
So then he was in a fidget for the rain to let up, so we could turn out
and run across some of the people and see if they would say anything about
it to us. And he said if they did we must be horribly surprised and
shocked.
We was out and gone the minute the rain stopped. It was just broad day
then. We loafed along up the road, and now and then met a person and
stopped and said howdy, and told them when we come, and how we left the
folks at home, and how long we was going to stay, and all that, but none
of them said a word about that thing; which was just astonishing, and no
mistake. Tom said he believed if we went to the sycamores we would find
that body laying there solitary and alone, and not a soul around. Said he
believed the men chased the thieves so far into the woods that the thieves
prob'ly seen a good chance and turned on them at last, and maybe they all
killed each other, and so there wasn't anybody left to tell.
First we knowed, gabbling along that away, we was right at the
sycamores. The cold chills trickled down my back and I wouldn't budge
another step, for all Tom's persuading. But he couldn't hold in; he'd GOT
to see if the boots was safe on that body yet. So he crope in-and the next
minute out he come again with his eyes bulging he was so excited, and
says:
"Huck, it's gone!"
I WAS astonished! I says:
"Tom, you don't mean it."
"It's gone, sure. There ain't a sign of it. The ground is trampled
some, but if there was any blood it's all washed away by the storm, for
it's all puddles and slush in there."
At last I give in, and went and took a look myself; and it was just as
Tom said-there wasn't a sign of a corpse.
"Dern it," I says, "the di'monds is gone. Don't you reckon the thieves
slunk back and lugged him off, Tom?"
"Looks like it. It just does. Now where'd they hide him, do you reckon?"
"I don't know," I says, disgusted, "and what's more I don't care.
They've got the boots, and that's all I cared about. He'll lay around
these woods a long time before I hunt him up."
Tom didn't feel no more intrust in him neither, only curiosity to know
what come of him; but he said we'd lay low and keep dark and it wouldn't
be long till the dogs or somebody rousted him out.
We went back home to breakfast ever so bothered and put out and
disappointed and swindled. I warn't ever so down on a corpse before.