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Chapter 11 They're After Us!

  • "COME in," says the woman, and I did. She says: "Take a cheer."
  • I done it. She looked me all over with her little shiny eyes, and says:
  • "What might your name be?"
  • "Sarah Williams."
  • "Where 'bouts do you live? In this neighborhood?'
  • "No'm. In Hookerville, seven mile below. I've walked all the way and I'm al_ired out."
  • "Hungry, too, I reckon. I'll find you something."
  • "No'm, I ain't hungry. I was so hungry I had to stop two miles below here at _arm; so I ain't hungry no more. It's what makes me so late. My mother's dow_ick, and out of money and everything, and I come to tell my uncle Abne_oore. He lives at the upper end of the town, she says. I hain't ever bee_ere before. Do you know him?"
  • "No; but I don't know everybody yet. I haven't lived here quite two weeks.
  • It's a considerable ways to the upper end of the town. You better stay her_ll night. Take off your bonnet."
  • "No," I says; "I'll rest a while, I reckon, and go on. I ain't afeared of th_ark."
  • She said she wouldn't let me go by myself, but her husband would be in by an_y, maybe in a hour and a half, and she'd send him along with me. Then she go_o talking about her husband, and about her relations up the river, and he_elations down the river, and about how much better off they used to was, an_ow they didn't know but they'd made a mistake coming to our town, instead o_etting well alone—and so on and so on, till I was afeard I had made a mistak_oming to her to find out what was going on in the town; but by and by sh_ropped on to pap and the murder, and then I was pretty willing to let he_latter right along. She told about me and Tom Sawyer finding the six thousan_ollars (only she got it ten) and all about pap and what a hard lot he was, and what a hard lot I was, and at last she got down to where I was murdered. _ays:
  • "Who done it? We've heard considerable about these goings on down i_ookerville, but we don't know who 'twas that killed Huck Finn."
  • "Well, I reckon there's a right smart chance of people HERE that'd like t_now who killed him. Some think old Finn done it himself."
  • "No—is that so?"
  • "Most everybody thought it at first. He'll never know how nigh he come t_etting lynched. But before night they changed around and judged it was don_y a runaway nigger named Jim."
  • "Why HE—"
  • I stopped. I reckoned I better keep still. She run on, and never noticed I ha_ut in at all:
  • "The nigger run off the very night Huck Finn was killed. So there's a rewar_ut for him—three hundred dollars. And there's a reward out for old Finn, too—two hundred dollars. You see, he come to town the morning after th_urder, and told about it, and was out with 'em on the ferryboat hunt, an_ight away after he up and left. Before night they wanted to lynch him, but h_as gone, you see. Well, next day they found out the nigger was gone; the_ound out he hadn't ben seen sence ten o'clock the night the murder was done.
  • So then they put it on him, you see; and while they was full of it, next day, back comes old Finn, and went boo-hooing to Judge Thatcher to get money t_unt for the nigger all over Illinois with. The judge gave him some, and tha_vening he got drunk, and was around till after midnight with a couple o_ighty hard- looking strangers, and then went off with them. Well, he hain'_ome back sence, and they ain't looking for him back till this thing blow_ver a little, for people thinks now that he killed his boy and fixed thing_o folks would think robbers done it, and then he'd get Huck's money withou_aving to bother a long time with a lawsuit. People do say he warn't any to_ood to do it. Oh, he's sly, I reckon. If he don't come back for a year he'l_e all right. You can't prove anything on him, you know; everything will b_uieted down then, and he'll walk in Huck's money as easy as nothing."
  • "Yes, I reckon so, 'm. I don't see nothing in the way of it. Has everybod_uit thinking the nigger done it?"
  • "Oh, no, not everybody. A good many thinks he done it. But they'll get th_igger pretty soon now, and maybe they can scare it out of him."
  • "Why, are they after him yet?"
  • "Well, you're innocent, ain't you! Does three hundred dollars lay around ever_ay for people to pick up? Some folks think the nigger ain't far from here.
  • I'm one of them—but I hain't talked it around. A few days ago I was talkin_ith an old couple that lives next door in the log shanty, and they happene_o say hardly anybody ever goes to that island over yonder that they cal_ackson's Island. Don't anybody live there? says I. No, nobody, says they. _idn't say any more, but I done some thinking. I was pretty near certain I'_een smoke over there, about the head of the island, a day or two before that, so I says to myself, like as not that nigger's hiding over there; anyway, say_, it's worth the trouble to give the place a hunt. I hain't seen any smok_ence, so I reckon maybe he's gone, if it was him; but husband's going over t_ee— him and another man. He was gone up the river; but he got back to-day, and I told him as soon as he got here two hours ago."
  • I had got so uneasy I couldn't set still. I had to do something with my hands; so I took up a needle off of the table and went to threading it. My hand_hook, and I was making a bad job of it. When the woman stopped talking _ooked up, and she was looking at me pretty curious and smiling a little. _ut down the needle and thread, and let on to be interested —and I was, too—and says:
  • "Three hundred dollars is a power of money. I wish my mother could get it. I_our husband going over there to-night?"
  • "Oh, yes. He went up-town with the man I was telling you of, to get a boat an_ee if they could borrow another gun. They'll go over after midnight."
  • "Couldn't they see better if they was to wait till daytime?"
  • "Yes. And couldn't the nigger see better, too? After midnight he'll likely b_sleep, and they can slip around through the woods and hunt up his camp fir_ll the better for the dark, if he's got one."
  • "I didn't think of that."
  • The woman kept looking at me pretty curious, and I didn't feel a bi_omfortable. Pretty soon she says"
  • "What did you say your name was, honey?"
  • "M—Mary Williams."
  • Somehow it didn't seem to me that I said it was Mary before, so I didn't loo_p—seemed to me I said it was Sarah; so I felt sort of cornered, and wa_feared maybe I was looking it, too. I wished the woman would say somethin_ore; the longer she set still the uneasier I was. But now she says:
  • "Honey, I thought you said it was Sarah when you first come in?"
  • "Oh, yes'm, I did. Sarah Mary Williams. Sarah's my first name. Some calls m_arah, some calls me Mary."
  • "Oh, that's the way of it?"
  • "Yes'm."
  • I was feeling better then, but I wished I was out of there, anyway. I couldn'_ook up yet.
  • Well, the woman fell to talking about how hard times was, and how poor the_ad to live, and how the rats was as free as if they owned the place, and s_orth and so on, and then I got easy again. She was right about the rats.
  • You'd see one stick his nose out of a hole in the corner every little while.
  • She said she had to have things handy to throw at them when she was alone, o_hey wouldn't give her no peace. She showed me a bar of lead twisted up into _not, and said she was a good shot with it generly, but she'd wrenched her ar_ day or two ago, and didn't know whether she could throw true now. But sh_atched for a chance, and directly banged away at a rat; but she missed hi_ide, and said "Ouch!" it hurt her arm so. Then she told me to try for th_ext one. I wanted to be getting away before the old man got back, but o_ourse I didn't let on. I got the thing, and the first rat that showed hi_ose I let drive, and if he'd a stayed where he was he'd a been a tolerabl_ick rat. She said that was first-rate, and she reckoned I would hive the nex_ne. She went and got the lump of lead and fetched it back, and brought alon_ hank of yarn which she wanted me to help her with. I held up my two hand_nd she put the hank over them, and went on talking about her and he_usband's matters. But she broke off to say:
  • "Keep your eye on the rats. You better have the lead in your lap, handy."
  • So she dropped the lump into my lap just at that moment, and I clapped my leg_ogether on it and she went on talking. But only about a minute. Then she too_ff the hank and looked me straight in the face, and very pleasant, and says:
  • "Come, now, what's your real name?"
  • "Wh—what, mum?"
  • "What's your real name? Is it Bill, or Tom, or Bob?—or what is it?"
  • I reckon I shook like a leaf, and I didn't know hardly what to do. But I says:
  • "Please to don't poke fun at a poor girl like me, mum. If I'm in the way here, I'll—"
  • "No, you won't. Set down and stay where you are. I ain't going to hurt you, and I ain't going to tell on you, nuther. You just tell me your secret, an_rust me. I'll keep it; and, what's more, I'll help you. So'll my old man i_ou want him to. You see, you're a runaway 'prentice, that's all. It ain'_nything. There ain't no harm in it. You've been treated bad, and you made u_our mind to cut. Bless you, child, I wouldn't tell on you. Tell me all abou_t now, that's a good boy."
  • So I said it wouldn't be no use to try to play it any longer, and I would jus_ake a clean breast and tell her everything, but she musn't go back on he_romise. Then I told her my father and mother was dead, and the law had boun_e out to a mean old farmer in the country thirty mile back from the river, and he treated me so bad I couldn't stand it no longer; he went away to b_one a couple of days, and so I took my chance and stole some of hi_aughter's old clothes and cleared out, and I had been three nights coming th_hirty miles. I traveled nights, and hid daytimes and slept, and the bag o_read and meat I carried from home lasted me all the way, and I had a-plenty.
  • I said I believed my uncle Abner Moore would take care of me, and so that wa_hy I struck out for this town of Goshen.
  • "Goshen, child? This ain't Goshen. This is St. Petersburg. Goshen's ten mil_urther up the river. Who told you this was Goshen?"
  • "Why, a man I met at daybreak this morning, just as I was going to turn int_he woods for my regular sleep. He told me when the roads forked I must tak_he right hand, and five mile would fetch me to Goshen."
  • "He was drunk, I reckon. He told you just exactly wrong."
  • "Well, he did act like he was drunk, but it ain't no matter now. I got to b_oving along. I'll fetch Goshen before daylight."
  • "Hold on a minute. I'll put you up a snack to eat. You might want it."
  • So she put me up a snack, and says:
  • "Say, when a cow's laying down, which end of her gets up first? Answer u_rompt now—don't stop to study over it. Which end gets up first?"
  • "The hind end, mum."
  • "Well, then, a horse?"
  • "The for'rard end, mum."
  • "Which side of a tree does the moss grow on?"
  • "North side."
  • "If fifteen cows is browsing on a hillside, how many of them eats with thei_eads pointed the same direction?"
  • "The whole fifteen, mum."
  • "Well, I reckon you HAVE lived in the country. I thought maybe you was tryin_o hocus me again. What's your real name, now?"
  • "George Peters, mum."
  • "Well, try to remember it, George. Don't forget and tell me it's Elexande_efore you go, and then get out by saying it's George Elexander when I catc_ou. And don't go about women in that old calico. You do a girl tolerabl_oor, but you might fool men, maybe. Bless you, child, when you set out t_hread a needle don't hold the thread still and fetch the needle up to it; hold the needle still and poke the thread at it; that's the way a woman mos_lways does, but a man always does t'other way. And when you throw at a rat o_nything, hitch yourself up a tiptoe and fetch your hand up over your head a_wkward as you can, and miss your rat about six or seven foot. Throw stiff- armed from the shoulder, like there was a pivot there for it to turn on, lik_ girl; not from the wrist and elbow, with your arm out to one side, like _oy. And, mind you, when a girl tries to catch anything in her lap she throw_er knees apart; she don't clap them together, the way you did when yo_atched the lump of lead. Why, I spotted you for a boy when you was threadin_he needle; and I contrived the other things just to make certain. Now tro_long to your uncle, Sarah Mary Williams George Elexander Peters, and if yo_et into trouble you send word to Mrs. Judith Loftus, which is me, and I'll d_hat I can to get you out of it. Keep the river road all the way, and nex_ime you tramp take shoes and socks with you. The river road's a rocky one, and your feet'll be in a condition when you get to Goshen, I reckon."
  • I went up the bank about fifty yards, and then I doubled on my tracks an_lipped back to where my canoe was, a good piece below the house. I jumped in, and was off in a hurry. I went up-stream far enough to make the head of th_sland, and then started across. I took off the sun- bonnet, for I didn't wan_o blinders on then. When I was about the middle I heard the clock begin t_trike, so I stops and listens; the sound come faint over the water bu_lear—eleven. When I struck the head of the island I never waited to blow, though I was most winded, but I shoved right into the timber where my old cam_sed to be, and started a good fire there on a high and dry spot.
  • Then I jumped in the canoe and dug out for our place, a mile and a half below, as hard as I could go. I landed, and slopped through the timber and up th_idge and into the cavern. There Jim laid, sound asleep on the ground. _oused him out and says:
  • "Git up and hump yourself, Jim! There ain't a minute to lose. They're afte_s!"
  • Jim never asked no questions, he never said a word; but the way he worked fo_he next half an hour showed about how he was scared. By that time everythin_e had in the world was on our raft, and she was ready to be shoved out fro_he willow cove where she was hid. We put out the camp fire at the cavern th_irst thing, and didn't show a candle outside after that.
  • I took the canoe out from the shore a little piece, and took a look; but i_here was a boat around I couldn't see it, for stars and shadows ain't good t_ee by. Then we got out the raft and slipped along down in the shade, past th_oot of the island dead still—never saying a word.