WHEN I got there it was all still and Sunday-like, and hot and sunshiny; th_ands was gone to the fields; and there was them kind of faint dronings o_ugs and flies in the air that makes it seem so lonesome and like everybody'_ead and gone; and if a breeze fans along and quivers the leaves it makes yo_eel mournful, because you feel like it's spirits whispering—spirits that'_een dead ever so many years—and you always think they're talking about YOU.
As a general thing it makes a body wish HE was dead, too, and done with i_ll.
Phelps' was one of these little one-horse cotton plantations, and they al_ook alike. A rail fence round a two-acre yard; a stile made out of logs sawe_ff and up-ended in steps, like barrels of a different length, to climb ove_he fence with, and for the women to stand on when they are going to jump o_o a horse; some sickly grass-patches in the big yard, but mostly it was bar_nd smooth, like an old hat with the nap rubbed off; big double log-house fo_he white folks—hewed logs, with the chinks stopped up with mud or mortar, an_hese mud-stripes been whitewashed some time or another; round-log kitchen, with a big broad, open but roofed passage joining it to the house; log smoke- house back of the kitchen; three little log nigger-cabins in a row t'othe_ide the smoke-house; one little hut all by itself away down against the bac_ence, and some outbuildings down a piece the other side; ash-hopper and bi_ettle to bile soap in by the little hut; bench by the kitchen door, wit_ucket of water and a gourd; hound asleep there in the sun; more hounds aslee_ound about; about three shade trees away off in a corner; some currant bushe_nd gooseberry bushes in one place by the fence; outside of the fence a garde_nd a watermelon patch; then the cotton fields begins, and after the field_he woods.
I went around and clumb over the back stile by the ash-hopper, and started fo_he kitchen. When I got a little ways I heard the dim hum of a spinning-whee_ailing along up and sinking along down again; and then I knowed for certain _ished I was dead—for that IS the lonesomest sound in the whole world.
I went right along, not fixing up any particular plan, but just trusting t_rovidence to put the right words in my mouth when the time come; for I'_oticed that Providence always did put the right words in my mouth if I lef_t alone.
When I got half-way, first one hound and then another got up and went for me, and of course I stopped and faced them, and kept still. And such anothe_owwow as they made! In a quarter of a minute I was a kind of a hub of _heel, as you may say—spokes made out of dogs—circle of fifteen of them packe_ogether around me, with their necks and noses stretched up towards me, a-barking and howling; and more a-coming; you could see them sailing ove_ences and around corners from everywheres.
A nigger woman come tearing out of the kitchen with a rolling-pin in her hand, singing out, "Begone YOU Tige! you Spot! begone sah!" and she fetched firs_ne and then another of them a clip and sent them howling, and then the res_ollowed; and the next second half of them come back, wagging their tail_round me, and making friends with me. There ain't no harm in a hound, nohow.
And behind the woman comes a little nigger girl and two little nigger boy_ithout anything on but tow-linen shirts, and they hung on to their mother'_own, and peeped out from behind her at me, bashful, the way they always do.
And here comes the white woman running from the house, about forty-five o_ifty year old, bareheaded, and her spinning-stick in her hand; and behind he_omes her little white children, acting the same way the little niggers wa_oing. She was smiling all over so she could hardly stand—and says:
"It's YOU, at last!—AIN'T it?"
I out with a "Yes'm" before I thought.
She grabbed me and hugged me tight; and then gripped me by both hands an_hook and shook; and the tears come in her eyes, and run down over; and sh_ouldn't seem to hug and shake enough, and kept saying, "You don't look a_uch like your mother as I reckoned you would; but law sakes, I don't care fo_hat, I'm so glad to see you! Dear, dear, it does seem like I could eat yo_p! Children, it's your cousin Tom!—tell him howdy."
But they ducked their heads, and put their fingers in their mouths, and hi_ehind her. So she run on:
"Lize, hurry up and get him a hot breakfast right away—or did you get you_reakfast on the boat?"
I said I had got it on the boat. So then she started for the house, leading m_y the hand, and the children tagging after. When we got there she set me dow_n a split-bottomed chair, and set herself down on a little low stool in fron_f me, holding both of my hands, and says:
"Now I can have a GOOD look at you; and, laws-a-me, I've been hungry for it _any and a many a time, all these long years, and it's come at last! We bee_xpecting you a couple of days and more. What kep' you?—boat get aground?"
"Don't say yes'm—say Aunt Sally. Where'd she get aground?"
I didn't rightly know what to say, because I didn't know whether the boa_ould be coming up the river or down. But I go a good deal on instinct; and m_nstinct said she would be coming up—from down towards Orleans. That didn'_elp me much, though; for I didn't know the names of bars down that way. I se_'d got to invent a bar, or forget the name of the one we got agroun_n—or—Now I struck an idea, and fetched it out:
"It warn't the grounding—that didn't keep us back but a little. We blowed ou_ cylinder-head."
"Good gracious! anybody hurt?"
"No'm. Killed a nigger."
"Well, it's lucky; because sometimes people do get hurt. Two years ago las_hristmas your uncle Silas was coming up from Newrleans on the old Lally Rook, and she blowed out a cylinder-head and crippled a man. And I think he die_fterwards. He was a Baptist. Your uncle Silas knowed a family in Baton Roug_hat knowed his people very well. Yes, I remember now, he DID die.
Mortification set in, and they had to amputate him. But it didn't save him.
Yes, it was mortification—that was it. He turned blue all over, and died i_he hope of a glorious resurrection. They say he was a sight to look at. You_ncle's been up to the town every day to fetch you. And he's gone again, no_ore'n an hour ago; he'll be back any minute now. You must a met him on th_oad, didn't you?—oldish man, with a—"
"No, I didn't see nobody, Aunt Sally. The boat landed just at daylight, and _eft my baggage on the wharf-boat and went looking around the town and out _iece in the country, to put in the time and not get here too soon; and so _ome down the back way."
"Who'd you give the baggage to?"
"Why, child, it 'll be stole!"
"Not where I hid it I reckon it won't," I says.
"How'd you get your breakfast so early on the boat?"
It was kinder thin ice, but I says:
"The captain see me standing around, and told me I better have something t_at before I went ashore; so he took me in the texas to the officers' lunch, and give me all I wanted."
I was getting so uneasy I couldn't listen good. I had my mind on the childre_ll the time; I wanted to get them out to one side and pump them a little, an_ind out who I was. But I couldn't get no show, Mrs. Phelps kept it up and ru_n so. Pretty soon she made the cold chills streak all down my back, becaus_he says:
"But here we're a-running on this way, and you hain't told me a word abou_is, nor any of them. Now I'll rest my works a little, and you start up yourn; just tell me EVERYTHING—tell me all about 'm all every one of 'm; and how the_re, and what they're doing, and what they told you to tell me; and every las_hing you can think of."
Well, I see I was up a stump—and up it good. Providence had stood by me thi_ur all right, but I was hard and tight aground now. I see it warn't a bit o_se to try to go ahead—I'd got to throw up my hand. So I says to myself, here's another place where I got to resk the truth. I opened my mouth t_egin; but she grabbed me and hustled me in behind the bed, and says:
"Here he comes! Stick your head down lower—there, that'll do; you can't b_een now. Don't you let on you're here. I'll play a joke on him. Children, don't you say a word."
I see I was in a fix now. But it warn't no use to worry; there warn't nothin_o do but just hold still, and try and be ready to stand from under when th_ightning struck.
I had just one little glimpse of the old gentleman when he come in; then th_ed hid him. Mrs. Phelps she jumps for him, and says:
"Has he come?"
"No," says her husband.
"Good-NESS gracious!" she says, "what in the warld can have become of him?"
"I can't imagine," says the old gentleman; "and I must say it makes m_readful uneasy."
"Uneasy!" she says; "I'm ready to go distracted! He MUST a come; and you'v_issed him along the road. I KNOW it's so—something tells me so."
"Why, Sally, I COULDN'T miss him along the road—YOU know that."
"But oh, dear, dear, what WILL Sis say! He must a come! You must a missed him.
"Oh, don't distress me any more'n I'm already distressed. I don't know what i_he world to make of it. I'm at my wit's end, and I don't mind acknowledging
't I'm right down scared. But there's no hope that he's come; for he COULDN'_ome and me miss him. Sally, it's terrible—just terrible—something's happene_o the boat, sure!"
"Why, Silas! Look yonder!—up the road!—ain't that somebody coming?"
He sprung to the window at the head of the bed, and that give Mrs. Phelps th_hance she wanted. She stooped down quick at the foot of the bed and give me _ull, and out I come; and when he turned back from the window there she stood, a-beaming and a-smiling like a house afire, and I standing pretty meek an_weaty alongside. The old gentleman stared, and says:
"Why, who's that?"
"Who do you reckon 't is?"
"I hain't no idea. Who IS it?"
"It's TOM SAWYER!"
By jings, I most slumped through the floor! But there warn't no time to swa_nives; the old man grabbed me by the hand and shook, and kept on shaking; an_ll the time how the woman did dance around and laugh and cry; and then ho_hey both did fire off questions about Sid, and Mary, and the rest of th_ribe.
But if they was joyful, it warn't nothing to what I was; for it was like bein_orn again, I was so glad to find out who I was. Well, they froze to me fo_wo hours; and at last, when my chin was so tired it couldn't hardly go an_ore, I had told them more about my family—I mean the Sawyer family—than eve_appened to any six Sawyer families. And I explained all about how we blowe_ut a cylinder-head at the mouth of White River, and it took us three days t_ix it. Which was all right, and worked first-rate; because THEY didn't kno_ut what it would take three days to fix it. If I'd a called it a bolthead i_ould a done just as well.
Now I was feeling pretty comfortable all down one side, and prett_ncomfortable all up the other. Being Tom Sawyer was easy and comfortable, an_t stayed easy and comfortable till by and by I hear a steamboat coughin_long down the river. Then I says to myself, s'pose Tom Sawyer comes down o_hat boat? And s'pose he steps in here any minute, and sings out my nam_efore I can throw him a wink to keep quiet?
Well, I couldn't HAVE it that way; it wouldn't do at all. I must go up th_oad and waylay him. So I told the folks I reckoned I would go up to the tow_nd fetch down my baggage. The old gentleman was for going along with me, bu_ said no, I could drive the horse myself, and I druther he wouldn't take n_rouble about me.