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?"
"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."
"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.
"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—"
"—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:
"Well—WHAT?" he says, kind of pettish.
"Don t you what ME, you impudent thing—hand out them 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.