SO I started for town in the wagon, and when I was half-way I see a wago_oming, and sure enough it was Tom Sawyer, and I stopped and waited till h_ome along. I says "Hold on!" and it stopped alongside, and his mouth opene_p like a trunk, and stayed so; and he swallowed two or three times like _erson that's got a dry throat, and then says:
"I hain't ever done you no harm. You know that. So, then, what you want t_ome back and ha'nt ME for?"
"I hain't come back—I hain't been GONE."
When he heard my voice it righted him up some, but he warn't quite satisfie_et. He says:
"Don't you play nothing on me, because I wouldn't on you. Honest injun, yo_in't a ghost?"
"Honest injun, I ain't," I says.
"Well—I—I—well, that ought to settle it, of course; but I can't somehow see_o understand it no way. Looky here, warn't you ever murdered AT ALL?"
"No. I warn't ever murdered at all—I played it on them. You come in here an_eel of me if you don't believe me."
So he done it; and it satisfied him; and he was that glad to see me again h_idn't know what to do. And he wanted to know all about it right off, becaus_t was a grand adventure, and mysterious, and so it hit him where he lived.
But I said, leave it alone till by and by; and told his driver to wait, and w_rove off a little piece, and I told him the kind of a fix I was in, and wha_id he reckon we better do? He said, let him alone a minute, and don't distur_im. So he thought and thought, and pretty soon he says:
"It's all right; I've got it. Take my trunk in your wagon, and let on it'_our'n; and you turn back and fool along slow, so as to get to the house abou_he time you ought to; and I'll go towards town a piece, and take a fres_tart, and get there a quarter or a half an hour after you; and you needn'_et on to know me at first."
"All right; but wait a minute. There's one more thing—a thing that NOBOD_on't know but me. And that is, there's a nigger here that I'm a- trying t_teal out of slavery, and his name is JIM—old Miss Watson's Jim."
"What! Why, Jim is—"
He stopped and went to studying. I says:
"I know what you'll say. You'll say it's dirty, low-down business; but what i_t is? I'm low down; and I'm a-going to steal him, and I want you keep mum an_ot let on. Will you?"
His eye lit up, and he says:
"I'll HELP you steal him!"
Well, I let go all holts then, like I was shot. It was the most astonishin_peech I ever heard—and I'm bound to say Tom Sawyer fell considerable in m_stimation. Only I couldn't believe it. Tom Sawyer a NIGGER-STEALER!
"Oh, shucks!" I says; "you're joking."
"I ain't joking, either."
"Well, then," I says, "joking or no joking, if you hear anything said about _unaway nigger, don't forget to remember that YOU don't know nothing abou_im, and I don't know nothing about him."
Then we took the trunk and put it in my wagon, and he drove off his way and _rove mine. But of course I forgot all about driving slow on accounts of bein_lad and full of thinking; so I got home a heap too quick for that length of _rip. The old gentleman was at the door, and he says:
"Why, this is wonderful! Whoever would a thought it was in that mare to do it?
I wish we'd a timed her. And she hain't sweated a hair—not a hair. It'_onderful. Why, I wouldn't take a hundred dollars for that horse now—_ouldn't, honest; and yet I'd a sold her for fifteen before, and thought 'twa_ll she was worth."
That's all he said. He was the innocentest, best old soul I ever see. But i_arn't surprising; because he warn't only just a farmer, he was a preacher, too, and had a little one-horse log church down back of the plantation, whic_e built it himself at his own expense, for a church and schoolhouse, an_ever charged nothing for his preaching, and it was worth it, too. There wa_lenty other farmer-preachers like that, and done the same way, down South.
In about half an hour Tom's wagon drove up to the front stile, and Aunt Sall_he see it through the window, because it was only about fifty yards, an_ays:
"Why, there's somebody come! I wonder who 'tis? Why, I do believe it's _tranger. Jimmy" (that's one of the children) "run and tell Lize to put o_nother plate for dinner."
Everybody made a rush for the front door, because, of course, a stranger don'_ome EVERY year, and so he lays over the yaller-fever, for interest, when h_oes come. Tom was over the stile and starting for the house; the wagon wa_pinning up the road for the village, and we was all bunched in the fron_oor. Tom had his store clothes on, and an audience—and that was always nut_or Tom Sawyer. In them circumstances it warn't no trouble to him to throw i_n amount of style that was suitable. He warn't a boy to meeky along up tha_ard like a sheep; no, he come ca'm and important, like the ram. When he go_-front of us he lifts his hat ever so gracious and dainty, like it was th_id of a box that had butterflies asleep in it and he didn't want to distur_hem, and says:
"Mr. Archibald Nichols, I presume?"
"No, my boy," says the old gentleman, "I'm sorry to say 't your driver ha_eceived you; Nichols's place is down a matter of three mile more. Come in, come in."
Tom he took a look back over his shoulder, and says, "Too late—he's out o_ight."
"Yes, he's gone, my son, and you must come in and eat your dinner with us; an_hen we'll hitch up and take you down to Nichols's."
"Oh, I CAN'T make you so much trouble; I couldn't think of it. I'll walk —_on't mind the distance."
"But we won't LET you walk—it wouldn't be Southern hospitality to do it. Com_ight in."
"Oh, DO," says Aunt Sally; "it ain't a bit of trouble to us, not a bit in th_orld. You must stay. It's a long, dusty three mile, and we can't let yo_alk. And, besides, I've already told 'em to put on another plate when I se_ou coming; so you mustn't disappoint us. Come right in and make yourself a_ome."
So Tom he thanked them very hearty and handsome, and let himself be persuaded, and come in; and when he was in he said he was a stranger from Hicksville, Ohio, and his name was William Thompson—and he made another bow.
Well, he run on, and on, and on, making up stuff about Hicksville an_verybody in it he could invent, and I getting a little nervious, an_ondering how this was going to help me out of my scrape; and at last, stil_alking along, he reached over and kissed Aunt Sally right on the mouth, an_hen settled back again in his chair comfortable, and was going on talking; but she jumped up and wiped it off with the back of her hand, and says:
"You owdacious puppy!"
He looked kind of hurt, and says:
"I'm surprised at you, m'am."
"You're s'rp—Why, what do you reckon I am? I've a good notion to take and—Say, what do you mean by kissing me?"
He looked kind of humble, and says:
"I didn't mean nothing, m'am. I didn't mean no harm. I—I—thought you'd lik_t."
"Why, you born fool!" She took up the spinning stick, and it looked like i_as all she could do to keep from giving him a crack with it. "What made yo_hink I'd like it?"
"Well, I don't know. Only, they—they—told me you would."
"THEY told you I would. Whoever told you's ANOTHER lunatic. I never heard th_eat of it. Who's THEY?"
"Why, everybody. They all said so, m'am."
It was all she could do to hold in; and her eyes snapped, and her finger_orked like she wanted to scratch him; and she says:
"Who's 'everybody'? Out with their names, or ther'll be an idiot short."
He got up and looked distressed, and fumbled his hat, and says:
"I'm sorry, and I warn't expecting it. They told me to. They all told me to.
They all said, kiss her; and said she'd like it. They all said it—every one o_hem. But I'm sorry, m'am, and I won't do it no more —I won't, honest."
"You won't, won't you? Well, I sh'd RECKON you won't!"
"No'm, I'm honest about it; I won't ever do it again—till you ask me."
"Till I ASK you! Well, I never see the beat of it in my born days! I la_ou'll be the Methusalem-numskull of creation before ever I ask you— or th_ikes of you."
"Well," he says, "it does surprise me so. I can't make it out, somehow. The_aid you would, and I thought you would. But—" He stopped and looked aroun_low, like he wished he could run across a friendly eye somewheres, an_etched up on the old gentleman's, and says, "Didn't YOU think she'd like m_o kiss her, sir?"
"Why, no; I—I—well, no, I b'lieve I didn't."
Then he looks on around the same way to me, and says:
"Tom, didn't YOU think Aunt Sally 'd open out her arms and say, 'Sid Sawyer—'"
"My land!" she says, breaking in and jumping for him, "you impudent youn_ascal, to fool a body so—" and was going to hug him, but he fended her off, and says:
"No, not till you've asked me first."
So she didn't lose no time, but asked him; and hugged him and kissed him ove_nd over again, and then turned him over to the old man, and he took what wa_eft. And after they got a little quiet again she says:
"Why, dear me, I never see such a surprise. We warn't looking for YOU at all, but only Tom. Sis never wrote to me about anybody coming but him."
"It's because it warn't INTENDED for any of us to come but Tom," he says; "bu_ begged and begged, and at the last minute she let me come, too; so, comin_own the river, me and Tom thought it would be a first-rate surprise for hi_o come here to the house first, and for me to by and by tag along and dro_n, and let on to be a stranger. But it was a mistake, Aunt Sally. This ain'_o healthy place for a stranger to come."
"No—not impudent whelps, Sid. You ought to had your jaws boxed; I hain't bee_o put out since I don't know when. But I don't care, I don't mind th_erms—I'd be willing to stand a thousand such jokes to have you here. Well, t_hink of that performance! I don't deny it, I was most putrified wit_stonishment when you give me that smack."
We had dinner out in that broad open passage betwixt the house and th_itchen; and there was things enough on that table for seven families— and al_ot, too; none of your flabby, tough meat that's laid in a cupboard in a dam_ellar all night and tastes like a hunk of old cold cannibal in the morning.
Uncle Silas he asked a pretty long blessing over it, but it was worth it; an_t didn't cool it a bit, neither, the way I've seen them kind of interruption_o lots of times. There was a considerable good deal of talk all th_fternoon, and me and Tom was on the lookout all the time; but it warn't n_se, they didn't happen to say nothing about any runaway nigger, and we wa_fraid to try to work up to it. But at supper, at night, one of the littl_oys says:
"Pa, mayn't Tom and Sid and me go to the show?"
"No," says the old man, "I reckon there ain't going to be any; and yo_ouldn't go if there was; because the runaway nigger told Burton and me al_bout that scandalous show, and Burton said he would tell the people; so _eckon they've drove the owdacious loafers out of town before this time."
So there it was!—but I couldn't help it. Tom and me was to sleep in the sam_oom and bed; so, being tired, we bid good-night and went up to bed righ_fter supper, and clumb out of the window and down the lightning- rod, an_hoved for the town; for I didn't believe anybody was going to give the kin_nd the duke a hint, and so if I didn't hurry up and give them one they'd ge_nto trouble sure.
On the road Tom he told me all about how it was reckoned I was murdered, an_ow pap disappeared pretty soon, and didn't come back no more, and what a sti_here was when Jim run away; and I told Tom all about our Royal Nonesuc_apscallions, and as much of the raft voyage as I had time to; and as w_truck into the town and up through the—here comes a raging rush of peopl_ith torches, and an awful whooping and yelling, and banging tin pans an_lowing horns; and we jumped to one side to let them go by; and as they wen_y I see they had the king and the duke astraddle of a rail—that is, I knowe_t WAS the king and the duke, though they was all over tar and feathers, an_idn't look like nothing in the world that was human—just looked like a coupl_f monstrous big soldier-plumes. Well, it made me sick to see it; and I wa_orry for them poor pitiful rascals, it seemed like I couldn't ever feel an_ardness against them any more in the world. It was a dreadful thing to see.
Human beings CAN be awful cruel to one another.
We see we was too late—couldn't do no good. We asked some stragglers about it, and they said everybody went to the show looking very innocent; and laid lo_nd kept dark till the poor old king was in the middle of his cavortings o_he stage; then somebody give a signal, and the house rose up and went fo_hem.
So we poked along back home, and I warn't feeling so brash as I was before, but kind of ornery, and humble, and to blame, somehow—though I hadn't don_othing. But that's always the way; it don't make no difference whether you d_ight or wrong, a person's conscience ain't got no sense, and just goes fo_im anyway. If I had a yaller dog that didn't know no more than a person'_onscience does I would pison him. It takes up more room than all the rest o_ person's insides, and yet ain't no good, nohow. Tom Sawyer he says the same.