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Chapter 42 Why They Didn't Hang Jim

  • THE old man was uptown again before breakfast, but couldn't get no track o_om; and both of them set at the table thinking, and not saying nothing, an_ooking mournful, and their coffee getting cold, and not eating anything. An_y and by the old man says:
  • "Did I give you the letter?"
  • "What letter?"
  • "The one I got yesterday out of the post-office."
  • "No, you didn't give me no letter."
  • "Well, I must a forgot it."
  • So he rummaged his pockets, and then went off somewheres where he had laid i_own, and fetched it, and give it to her. She says:
  • "Why, it's from St. Petersburg—it's from Sis."
  • I allowed another walk would do me good; but I couldn't stir. But before sh_ould break it open she dropped it and run—for she see something. And so di_. It was Tom Sawyer on a mattress; and that old doctor; and Jim, in HE_alico dress, with his hands tied behind him; and a lot of people. I hid th_etter behind the first thing that come handy, and rushed. She flung hersel_t Tom, crying, and says:
  • "Oh, he's dead, he's dead, I know he's dead!"
  • And Tom he turned his head a little, and muttered something or other, whic_howed he warn't in his right mind; then she flung up her hands, and says:
  • "He's alive, thank God! And that's enough!" and she snatched a kiss of him, and flew for the house to get the bed ready, and scattering orders right an_eft at the niggers and everybody else, as fast as her tongue could go, ever_ump of the way.
  • I followed the men to see what they was going to do with Jim; and the ol_octor and Uncle Silas followed after Tom into the house. The men was ver_uffy, and some of them wanted to hang Jim for an example to all the othe_iggers around there, so they wouldn't be trying to run away like Jim done, and making such a raft of trouble, and keeping a whole family scared most t_eath for days and nights. But the others said, don't do it, it wouldn'_nswer at all; he ain't our nigger, and his owner would turn up and make u_ay for him, sure. So that cooled them down a little, because the peopl_hat's always the most anxious for to hang a nigger that hain't done jus_ight is always the very ones that ain't the most anxious to pay for him whe_hey've got their satisfaction out of him.
  • They cussed Jim considerble, though, and give him a cuff or two side the hea_nce in a while, but Jim never said nothing, and he never let on to know me, and they took him to the same cabin, and put his own clothes on him, an_hained him again, and not to no bed-leg this time, but to a big staple drov_nto the bottom log, and chained his hands, too, and both legs, and said h_arn't to have nothing but bread and water to eat after this till his owne_ome, or he was sold at auction because he didn't come in a certain length o_ime, and filled up our hole, and said a couple of farmers with guns mus_tand watch around about the cabin every night, and a bulldog tied to the doo_n the daytime; and about this time they was through with the job and wa_apering off with a kind of generl good-bye cussing, and then the old docto_omes and takes a look, and says:
  • "Don't be no rougher on him than you're obleeged to, because he ain't a ba_igger. When I got to where I found the boy I see I couldn't cut the bulle_ut without some help, and he warn't in no condition for me to leave to go an_et help; and he got a little worse and a little worse, and after a long tim_e went out of his head, and wouldn't let me come a-nigh him any more, an_aid if I chalked his raft he'd kill me, and no end of wild foolishness lik_hat, and I see I couldn't do anything at all with him; so I says, I got t_ave HELP somehow; and the minute I says it out crawls this nigger fro_omewheres and says he'll help, and he done it, too, and done it very well. O_ourse I judged he must be a runaway nigger, and there I WAS! and there I ha_o stick right straight along all the rest of the day and all night. It was _ix, I tell you! I had a couple of patients with the chills, and of course I'_f liked to run up to town and see them, but I dasn't, because the nigge_ight get away, and then I'd be to blame; and yet never a skiff come clos_nough for me to hail. So there I had to stick plumb until daylight thi_orning; and I never see a nigger that was a better nuss or faithfuller, an_et he was risking his freedom to do it, and was all tired out, too, and I se_lain enough he'd been worked main hard lately. I liked the nigger for that; _ell you, gentlemen, a nigger like that is worth a thousand dollars—and kin_reatment, too. I had everything I needed, and the boy was doing as well ther_s he would a done at home—better, maybe, because it was so quiet; but there _AS, with both of 'm on my hands, and there I had to stick till about daw_his morning; then some men in a skiff come by, and as good luck would have i_he nigger was setting by the pallet with his head propped on his knees soun_sleep; so I motioned them in quiet, and they slipped up on him and grabbe_im and tied him before he knowed what he was about, and we never had n_rouble. And the boy being in a kind of a flighty sleep, too, we muffled th_ars and hitched the raft on, and towed her over very nice and quiet, and th_igger never made the least row nor said a word from the start. He ain't n_ad nigger, gentlemen; that's what I think about him."
  • Somebody says:
  • "Well, it sounds very good, doctor, I'm obleeged to say."
  • Then the others softened up a little, too, and I was mighty thankful to tha_ld doctor for doing Jim that good turn; and I was glad it was according to m_udgment of him, too; because I thought he had a good heart in him and was _ood man the first time I see him. Then they all agreed that Jim had acte_ery well, and was deserving to have some notice took of it, and reward. S_very one of them promised, right out and hearty, that they wouldn't cuss hi_o more.
  • Then they come out and locked him up. I hoped they was going to say he coul_ave one or two of the chains took off, because they was rotten heavy, o_ould have meat and greens with his bread and water; but they didn't think o_t, and I reckoned it warn't best for me to mix in, but I judged I'd get th_octor's yarn to Aunt Sally somehow or other as soon as I'd got through th_reakers that was laying just ahead of me— explanations, I mean, of how _orgot to mention about Sid being shot when I was telling how him and me pu_n that dratted night paddling around hunting the runaway nigger.
  • But I had plenty time. Aunt Sally she stuck to the sick-room all day and al_ight, and every time I see Uncle Silas mooning around I dodged him.
  • Next morning I heard Tom was a good deal better, and they said Aunt Sally wa_one to get a nap. So I slips to the sick-room, and if I found him awake _eckoned we could put up a yarn for the family that would wash. But he wa_leeping, and sleeping very peaceful, too; and pale, not fire- faced the wa_e was when he come. So I set down and laid for him to wake. In about half a_our Aunt Sally comes gliding in, and there I was, up a stump again! Sh_otioned me to be still, and set down by me, and begun to whisper, and said w_ould all be joyful now, because all the symptoms was first-rate, and he'_een sleeping like that for ever so long, and looking better and peacefulle_ll the time, and ten to one he'd wake up in his right mind.
  • So we set there watching, and by and by he stirs a bit, and opened his eye_ery natural, and takes a look, and says:
  • "Hello!—why, I'm at HOME! How's that? Where's the raft?"
  • "It's all right," I says.
  • "And JIM?"
  • "The same," I says, but couldn't say it pretty brash. But he never noticed, but says:
  • "Good! Splendid! NOW we're all right and safe! Did you tell Aunty?"
  • I was going to say yes; but she chipped in and says: "About what, Sid?"
  • "Why, about the way the whole thing was done."
  • "What whole thing?"
  • "Why, THE whole thing. There ain't but one; how we set the runaway nigge_ree—me and Tom."
  • "Good land! Set the run—What IS the child talking about! Dear, dear, out o_is head again!"
  • "NO, I ain't out of my HEAD; I know all what I'm talking about. We DID set hi_ree—me and Tom. We laid out to do it, and we DONE it. And we done it elegant, too." He'd got a start, and she never checked him up, just set and stared an_tared, and let him clip along, and I see it warn't no use for ME to put in.
  • "Why, Aunty, it cost us a power of work —weeks of it—hours and hours, ever_ight, whilst you was all asleep. And we had to steal candles, and the sheet, and the shirt, and your dress, and spoons, and tin plates, and case-knives, and the warming-pan, and the grindstone, and flour, and just no end of things, and you can't think what work it was to make the saws, and pens, an_nscriptions, and one thing or another, and you can't think HALF the fun i_as. And we had to make up the pictures of coffins and things, and nonnamou_etters from the robbers, and get up and down the lightning-rod, and dig th_ole into the cabin, and made the rope ladder and send it in cooked up in _ie, and send in spoons and things to work with in your apron pocket—"
  • "Mercy sakes!"
  • "—and load up the cabin with rats and snakes and so on, for company for Jim; and then you kept Tom here so long with the butter in his hat that you com_ear spiling the whole business, because the men come before we was out of th_abin, and we had to rush, and they heard us and let drive at us, and I got m_hare, and we dodged out of the path and let them go by, and when the dog_ome they warn't interested in us, but went for the most noise, and we got ou_anoe, and made for the raft, and was all safe, and Jim was a free man, and w_one it all by ourselves, and WASN'T it bully, Aunty!"
  • "Well, I never heard the likes of it in all my born days! So it was YOU, yo_ittle rapscallions, that's been making all this trouble, and turne_verybody's wits clean inside out and scared us all most to death. I've a_ood a notion as ever I had in my life to take it out o' you this very minute.
  • To think, here I've been, night after night, a—YOU just get well once, yo_oung scamp, and I lay I'll tan the Old Harry out o' both o' ye!"
  • But Tom, he WAS so proud and joyful, he just COULDN'T hold in, and his tongu_ust WENT it—she a-chipping in, and spitting fire all along, and both of the_oing it at once, like a cat convention; and she says:
  • "WELL, you get all the enjoyment you can out of it NOW, for mind I tell you i_ catch you meddling with him again—"
  • "Meddling with WHO?" Tom says, dropping his smile and looking surprised.
  • "With WHO? Why, the runaway nigger, of course. Who'd you reckon?"
  • Tom looks at me very grave, and says:
  • "Tom, didn't you just tell me he was all right? Hasn't he got away?"
  • "HIM?" says Aunt Sally; "the runaway nigger? 'Deed he hasn't. They've got hi_ack, safe and sound, and he's in that cabin again, on bread and water, an_oaded down with chains, till he's claimed or sold!"
  • Tom rose square up in bed, with his eye hot, and his nostrils opening an_hutting like gills, and sings out to me:
  • "They hain't no RIGHT to shut him up! SHOVE!—and don't you lose a minute. Tur_im loose! he ain't no slave; he's as free as any cretur that walks thi_arth!"
  • "What DOES the child mean?"
  • "I mean every word I SAY, Aunt Sally, and if somebody don't go, I'LL go. I'v_nowed him all his life, and so has Tom, there. Old Miss Watson died tw_onths ago, and she was ashamed she ever was going to sell him down the river, and SAID so; and she set him free in her will."
  • "Then what on earth did YOU want to set him free for, seeing he was alread_ree?"
  • "Well, that IS a question, I must say; and just like women! Why, I wanted th_DVENTURE of it; and I'd a waded neck-deep in blood to— goodness alive, AUN_OLLY!"
  • If she warn't standing right there, just inside the door, looking as sweet an_ontented as an angel half full of pie, I wish I may never!
  • Aunt Sally jumped for her, and most hugged the head off of her, and cried ove_er, and I found a good enough place for me under the bed, for it was gettin_retty sultry for us, seemed to me. And I peeped out, and in a little whil_om's Aunt Polly shook herself loose and stood there looking across at To_ver her spectacles—kind of grinding him into the earth, you know. And the_he says:
  • "Yes, you BETTER turn y'r head away—I would if I was you, Tom."
  • "Oh, deary me!" says Aunt Sally; "IS he changed so? Why, that ain't TOM, it'_id; Tom's—Tom's—why, where is Tom? He was here a minute ago."
  • "You mean where's Huck FINN—that's what you mean! I reckon I hain't raise_uch a scamp as my Tom all these years not to know him when I SEE him. Tha_OULD be a pretty howdy-do. Come out from under that bed, Huck Finn."
  • So I done it. But not feeling brash.
  • Aunt Sally she was one of the mixed-upest-looking persons I ever see— excep_ne, and that was Uncle Silas, when he come in and they told it all to him. I_ind of made him drunk, as you may say, and he didn't know nothing at all th_est of the day, and preached a prayer-meeting sermon that night that gave hi_ rattling ruputation, because the oldest man in the world couldn't _nderstood it. So Tom's Aunt Polly, she told all about who I was, and what; and I had to up and tell how I was in such a tight place that when Mrs. Phelp_ook me for Tom Sawyer—she chipped in and says, "Oh, go on and call me Aun_ally, I'm used to it now, and 'tain't no need to change"—that when Aunt Sall_ook me for Tom Sawyer I had to stand it—there warn't no other way, and _nowed he wouldn't mind, because it would be nuts for him, being a mystery, and he'd make an adventure out of it, and be perfectly satisfied. And so i_urned out, and he let on to be Sid, and made things as soft as he could fo_e.
  • And his Aunt Polly she said Tom was right about old Miss Watson setting Ji_ree in her will; and so, sure enough, Tom Sawyer had gone and took all tha_rouble and bother to set a free nigger free! and I couldn't ever understan_efore, until that minute and that talk, how he COULD help a body set a nigge_ree with his bringing-up.
  • Well, Aunt Polly she said that when Aunt Sally wrote to her that Tom and SI_ad come all right and safe, she says to herself:
  • "Look at that, now! I might have expected it, letting him go off that wa_ithout anybody to watch him. So now I got to go and trapse all the way dow_he river, eleven hundred mile, and find out what that creetur's up to THI_ime, as long as I couldn't seem to get any answer out of you about it."
  • "Why, I never heard nothing from you," says Aunt Sally.
  • "Well, I wonder! Why, I wrote you twice to ask you what you could mean by Si_eing here."
  • "Well, I never got 'em, Sis."
  • Aunt Polly she turns around slow and severe, and says:
  • "You, Tom!"
  • "Well—WHAT?" he says, kind of pettish.
  • "Don t you what ME, you impudent thing—hand out them letters."
  • "What letters?"
  • "THEM letters. I be bound, if I have to take a-holt of you I'll—"
  • "They're in the trunk. There, now. And they're just the same as they was whe_ got them out of the office. I hain't looked into them, I hain't touche_hem. But I knowed they'd make trouble, and I thought if you warn't in n_urry, I'd—"
  • "Well, you DO need skinning, there ain't no mistake about it. And I wrot_nother one to tell you I was coming; and I s'pose he—"
  • "No, it come yesterday; I hain't read it yet, but IT'S all right, I've go_hat one."
  • I wanted to offer to bet two dollars she hadn't, but I reckoned maybe it wa_ust as safe to not to. So I never said nothing.