BY EDGAR LEE MASTERS
Author Of STARVED ROCK, SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY, ETC., ETC.
With Illustrations By JOHN SLOAN
New York THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 1920
All rights reserved
COPYRIGHT, 1920, By EDGAR LEE MASTERS.
Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1920.
J. S. Cushing Co.—Berwick & Smith Co.
Norwood, Mass., U.S.A.
To My Little Daughters MADELINE AND MARCIA
Supposin' you was lyin' in a room and was asleep or pretty near asleep; and bein' asleep you could hear people talkin' but it didn't mean nothin' to you—just talk; and you kind of knew things was goin' on around you, but still you was way off in your sleep and belonged to yourself as a sleeper, and what was goin' on didn't make no difference to you; and really, supposin' you was tryin' to get back into deeper sleep before you heard these things. And then, supposin' now and then as your eyes rolled back into your head while sleepin' you saw through the lids—not tryin' to look, but your eyes just saw as they rolled past the open place between the lids—and you saw squares of light and dark, or maybe roundish blurs. And then supposin' sometimes you heard a noise, and as it turned out it was somebody goin' in and out of the room, or somebody closin' or openin' a door. And supposin' these here people were not tip-toein' exactly, but were kind of watchin' and laughin' a little maybe to see what you would do when you woke up. And finally one of your eyes kind of opened and you saw your ma sittin' in the corner, sewin', or peelin' apples maybe; and you saw your pa goin' out of a door, and your sister came up to you and looked clost to see when you was goin' to wake up. And supposin' after a bit you sat up and rubbed your eyes, and looked around and you was in a room, and the room was in your ma's house, and your ma sat there, sure enough, and your pa was goin' out of the door, and your sister was lookin' at you. And supposin' then you went out-doors and there was a yard and you saw the house from the outside, and there was a house near and other houses, and a fence in front, and wagons goin' by and people. And then supposin' by and by you found out that a railroad ran right by the side fence, and a great big black thing makin' a noise and blowin' out smoke came close to the fence sometimes, and a man would be ridin' in a little house on top of this big black thing, who talked to you, and laughed when you showed him a pipe made out of a cork and a match, and a cherry-seed put in a hollowed-out place of the cork for tobacco.
And then supposin' other children came around, and finally you went out on to a sidewalk and saw lots of houses, and by and by ran away and saw stores all around a lovely square and a great court house in the center. And supposin' you found out that there was a river just under the hills you could see beyond the railroad, and by and by you heard your folks say Petersburg; and by and by you knew that was the name of this town. And sometimes you could see more of the town, because your grandpa and grandma came with a carriage and drove clear through the town so as to get to the country and out to the farm where they lived.
And then supposin' one day all the things in the house was loaded on a wagon and you rode with your ma up the hill to a better house and a bigger yard with oak trees, and the things were put in the house and you began to live here, and saw different houses around, and different children came to play; and supposin' there was a girl named Cooster McCoy that used to come to the fence and make faces and say awful words which your ma told you was wicked and would make God punish you if you said 'em: and then supposin' you began to hear your pa and ma talk of Mr. Miller and what a wonderful man he was, and Mrs. Miller and what a good woman she was, and about the Miller girls, how funny and smart they was, and about Mitch Miller, the wonderfulest boy in town. And supposin' you went with your ma to visit 'em and when you got there you saw Mr. Miller readin' to Mrs. Miller, and you saw the Miller girls playin', and you saw Mitch Miller chewin' gum and readin' a book, and was so taken with the book he wouldn't play with you, but finally said he'd read to you, and so began to read from a book which he said was "Tom Sawyer," which was all about a boy just our age. And supposin' you got the book after a while and you read it too, but you understood it only because after a while Mitch explained it to you.
Well, this is the way it began: first the room, then the house—then the town in a way—and then Mitch—but I got acquainted with him really and he became my friend as I tell about after a while. Only now I just tell how things began to clear up as I came out of sleep, as you might say.
And onct when I was up to Mr. Miller's and he was readin' from Shakespeare to Mrs. Miller he came to a place where it says, "Our little life is rounded by a sleep." I remember this because Mr. Miller stopped and began to talk about it; and Mitch looked up from readin' "Tom Sawyer," and I began to think about the sleep I came out of, and how things at first seemed kind of double and like you had taken so-and-so's cure for consumption which ma says has opium in it. For when I took it for a cold, things kind of swum around me like a circular looking-glass, that you could see through somehow, and everything seemed kind of way off and funny and somethin' to laugh at and not treat as real.
Well, at first, too, everything seemed alive—even sticks and stones; and the broomstick I made into a gun seemed to have a life or kind of a memory of somethin'. And when I told Mr. Miller this he says, you're a savage, or you've been one in some other life, or else maybe you're repeatin' the life of a savage, and he called it filogenesis, or somethin' like that.
But anyway, your town comes to you at last; at least the town as it is then and seems to you then with all the folks in it, and your relatives, and all their ways and all the stories about 'em. And you get your place and find your friends, and you find one friend as I found Mitch. And so you're awake, or as much awake, we'll say, as you are at first in the morning when you first stretch out of bed. And so you get ready for the day and the next sleep——
I got acquainted with Mitch this way: In the first place when we moved to Petersburg and got into our house and was settled, one day Bob Pendleton came to see me. He said he'd come to call—that's the word he used. You see right in front of our house was Mr. Montgomery's house—an awful big brick house, with a big yard; and the back of it was in front of our house with a tall hedge; but there was a place to go through the hedge, through a grape arbor up to the house, and around to the front yard. Next to Mr. Montgomery's yard was Bucky Gum's pasture where he kept his cows. But if you stood down by the pasture away from Mr. Montgomery's hedge, you could look across and see Mr. Pendleton's fine brick house where Bob, this boy, lived. Mr. Pendleton kept a store and a bank and was awful rich; and when Bob came to call on me my ma was tickled most to death. She wanted me to have nice friends, boys who would grow up and be prominent in the world. And when Bob first came she went to the door and let him in and then came to me and made me wash and comb my hair. So I went in and here was Bob.
He had on a new suit and shiny shoes and a bow necktie, and he had a little ring on his finger. But he was so thin that he had to stand up twice to make a shadow. So he set there and nothin' much was said. I was afraid to ask him to swing, or to go to the barn, or anything. By and by he asked me if I had read "Little Men." I said no. Then he asked me if I had read the Pansy series. I said no to that; then he asked me if I subscribed to "Our Youth," which was a boys' paper full of good stories about nice girls and boys. I'd never heard of it. Then he asked me if I liked to play ball, and of course I did. And he said he had a ball ground in his orchard and to come over some time. Myrtle, my sister, liked nice boys, but she thought Bob was not the right kind of nice. But ma urged the friendship on me. And so it began.
And I must say Bob was a good boy, and I have no complaints to make; but I didn't know Mitch then, and so didn't see the difference so much. Well, Bob liked me and he kept havin' me over to his house. He had a big yard with trees in it, and a fountain with a stone figure of a little boy, not much clothes on, holdin' an urn. Bob's pa was the leadin' member of the Baptist Church and awful strict; and as Mitch's father was a Congregational preacher, Mr. Pendleton didn't like him on account of differin' with him about baptism.
Bob's house was just full of fine things—oil paintings of his father and mother, his sisters and himself; fine furniture all in horsehair; lots of silver for the table; and they kept two girls and had had 'em for years; and Mrs. Pendleton watched Bob very careful so he wouldn't catch cold or anything, because he had a weak chest. And Bob would take me down to his father's store where we got raisins and candy, and we played ball in the orchard.
Everything Bob had was brand new, and you had to be careful of it. He had a new ball; and on the day I met Mitch we was pitchin' ball—Bob and me, in the orchard—and Bob kept saying to be careful and not let it roll in the grass or get in the mud, that he wanted to keep it white and clean. Well, of course, I missed now and then and Bob seemed displeased. And when it rolled into the mud he came up and took the ball and wiped it off and looked mad. Just then he said: "There comes that Mitch Miller, and I think we'd better quit playin' anyway." I knew Mitch's name and had seen him, but we hadn't run together yet.
Mitch climbed over the fence into the orchard, and Bob began to kind a move away. I could see that Bob didn't want him, for he said, "Come on, Arthur." Everybody called me Skeet, though my name was Arthur, which I hated. Bob always called me Arthur and made me call him Robert, though his nickname was "Shadder." When Bob said to come on to me, Mitch says, "Wait a minute, Skeet, I've somethin' to tell you." So I said to Bob, "Wait a minute, Robert," and Bob said, "You're comin' now or not at all." That made me mad, so I stood there. Bob went on and Mitch came up.
"Let him go," said Mitch. "You don't care, do you?"
"Not much," says I.
"Well, I hope not," says Mitch. "He's a sissy—spoiled by his ma. And you don't call this any fun, do you, pitchin' ball with a ball so good that you dassn't let it roll on the ground? Now, I've seen you around, Skeet, and I like you, and if you like me, we'll be chums, and go havers on everything, and if anybody fights you he'll have to fight me, and the same way with me, and I'll bet we'll have more fun together in a day than you could have with Shadder Pendleton in a year. Do you agree?" I said, "Yes, I agree," for I liked Mitch—I liked his name, I liked his way, and his face, his voice, everything about him right then; and I knew what I was promisin'.
Mitch says, "Do you want to have some fun?" I says, "You bet I do."
"Well," Mitch says, "there's more goin' on in this town than you ever saw, if you only keep your eyes open. But I'll bet Shadder never hears of it, and if you run with him you'll never hear of it either. Do you know what's goin' to happen to-day?" "No," says I.
"Well," says Mitch, "Jack Plunkett, who was town marshal here once, and Ruddy Hedgpeth are goin' to have a fight to see which can whip the other."
"Where?" says I.
"Down near Old Salem," says Mitch, "on the flat sand by the river, clost to the mill. And I want to see it, and so do you."
"You bet I want to see it," I said.
So Mitch went on to tell me that Jack Plunkett had never been whipped and neither had Ruddy Hedgpeth. They had whipped everybody but each other. And each said he could whip the other. And last Saturday Ruddy was in town and went around the square sayin' he could whip Jack, and Jack heard it and sent back word he'd fight him a week off, on a Saturday, and this is the Saturday. And Mitch said we'd better hurry so as to get there before the fight was over, Old Salem bein' about a mile from town.
By this time Shadder had walked out of the orchard and was pretty near to the house and Mitch said, "Now he's gone, let him go, and come on. If he ever says you left him, you can say he left you, for he did."
It was a spring day—it was April—and we walked as fast as we could, runnin' part of the time. Mitch was wild about the country, about trees, birds, the river and the fields. And he whistled and sang. On the way out he began to talk to me about "Tom Sawyer," and asked me if I had read the book. This was one of the books I had read; so I said so. And Mitch says, "Do you know we can do exactly what Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn did?"
"What's that?" I said.
"Why, find treasure. It's just as surely here as anything. Of course there ain't no caves around here, at least I don't know of any. But think of the old houses—look at that old house down there by the ravine that goes into the river across from Mr. Morris' wagon shop. Think of those old houses clost to the Baptist Church; and think of the dead limbs on the trees in Montgomery's woods. But of course if we go into this, no one must know what we are doin'. We must keep still and if they catch us diggin', we must lie. If you don't know how to lie very well, Skeet, just listen to me and foller the story I tell."
I agreed to this. And Mitch went on.
"And by and by, we'll find treasure and divide it, for I have taken you for my chum and half of mine is yours, and a half of yours is mine."
By this time we had come to a pretty high bank about a hundred yards from the mill. We heard voices and looked down on the sand bank, and there were about fifty men sittin' or standin' around. And there was my pa. So I says, "I can't go down there, Mitch, my pa will whip me or drive me away. I know for certain he wouldn't want me to see this." "Well," says Mitch, "what's the difference? We're not more'n 75 feet away from 'em and can see everything and hear everything if there's anything to hear. So let's just lie down here in the grass and take it easy, and look down on 'em and watch it." So we did. There seemed to be some arrangin' of things. My pa seemed to be standin' clost to Ruddy Hedgpeth and talkin' to him and kind of advisin' him or takin' care of him. And George Montgomery was doin' the same for Jack Plunkett. Mitch says, "They're the seconds."
"What's that?" says I.
"Why," says Mitch, "seconds see that everything is fair, and no foolin'."
We could hear most everything they said, and they were talkin' about whether Jack Plunkett could choke Ruddy Hedgpeth if he got him. My pa said not; and Jack Plunkett said it was a fight to see who could whip the other, and if he got Ruddy so he could lay his hands on him and choke him until he gave up, that was fair and he insisted on it. Then Ruddy and my pa stepped to one side and talked secret; and then my pa said out loud that it was all right, and chokin' would not be barred; but of course what one could do, the other could. Jack Plunkett laughed at this an awful mockin' laugh, because he was the most terrible choker in the county and felt he could get the best of anybody in a chokin' match.
Then Jack and Ruddy began to undress, that is, they took off everything but their pants. Jack had a beard and a big square face, and a chest as thick as a horse and arms as big as a man's legs. And Ruddy was about as big only a little shorter, but he wore no beard, but his face and chest looked clean and slick and he was known to be an awful hard hitter. Then they got out on a flat place, level and hard sand, and began, my pa and George Montgomery takin' care of them and about fifty others watchin' as I said.
They stood and eyed each other and walked around and watched for a chance. Pretty soon Ruddy hit Jack on the chin and sent his head back and Jack rushed on Ruddy and got his hands on him, but Ruddy slipped away. Then Jack hit Ruddy, and Ruddy kind of wheeled around; and Jack rushed for Ruddy again, and again got his hands on him, but they slipped off. Then they seemed to get close together and just pound each other; and pretty soon Ruddy hit Jack and knocked him down. But Jack got right up and grabbed Ruddy and got an awful grip on him. "He's goin' to choke him now. He'll get him now, sure." And they tusseled for a while, Jack tryin' to get Ruddy's throat, but Ruddy always keepin' away, though pretty near gettin' it. Finally Ruddy broke clear loose and hit Jack an awful blow right in the chest. Then Jack went crazy mad. He rushed on Ruddy and got him by the throat and began to choke him. Meanwhile Ruddy was fightin' Jack's hands away and finally slipped 'em off again and as Jack came for him, Ruddy hit him and knocked Jack down again. Then he rushed on Jack and was about to choke him too, but Jack hopped up and kind of run off a little, then turned around and made for Ruddy again and struck Ruddy and knocked him into a heap. This was the first time for Ruddy; and he got right up and as Jack came up, he just rained the blows on Jack until Jack began to wilt and finally he came up with a regular sledge hammer and Jack fell over on the sand flat on his back, and lay there, his big white chest just goin' up and down like a bellows. I forgot to say that Harold Carman was there; and every time one was knocked down, he began to count. Mitch said if they counted 25 and you didn't get up, you was whipped. Well, this time Harold Carman counted 25 and then went on and counted 50 and still Jack didn't get up, but lay there his breast goin' up and down for air. Then everybody began to laugh. And the fight was given to Ruddy Hedgpeth; and when it was, Jack got up and picked up a club and started for Ruddy to kill him. So all the men pitched on to Jack and began to hold him; and Jack was bloody and was swearin' and sayin' he had been tricked and that he could lick Ruddy with one hand in a fair fight. "Ruddy Hedgpeth is a coward," says Jack; "he put sweet oil on his chest and throat so I couldn't choke him when I got my hands on him. He's a coward and I've been tricked."
My pa was not a very big man, but he warn't afraid of no one. And he says: "Anything was fair, so as to whip, and you're whipped and you'd better shut up." So Jack made for my pa and pa stooped down and picked up a rock and stood his ground. The other men interfered; and George Montgomery said the sweet oil was fair and they all turned on Jack and he had to take his medicine. Then they broke up and started to climb the bank; and Mitch and me ran into the woods at the side of the road and waited until they went.
"How was that?" said Mitch.
"That was wonderful," says I.
"Well, you stick with me, and I'll show you a lot of things. Do you want to dig for treasure with me?" I said, "Of course"; and Mitch says: "We'll begin right away in Montgomery's woods. For I've been over there lots, and there are sloughs of dead limbs and we're bound to find it. I've got something on to-night. Mr. Bennett's daughter Nellie is goin' to be married and we can get under the window and see it. It's the grandest thing ever happened here. The wedding cake has diamonds on it, and everybody that comes, that's invited, of course, is given some kind of a gift, and Nellie has solid silver buckles on her shoes and a veil that cost $50. I'll come for you," says Mitch. And so a little after supper Mitch whistled for me, and we went to the Bennett house and fooled around waiting.
Now Mr. Bennett had traded his farm for a store in town and was now a merchant prince, my pa said. And he had built him a wonderful stone house on a hill with a big yard around it. There was a house there before, and of course lots of trees, bushes around, and walks; and he had built a fine barn with lightning rods all over it with silver balls that just glittered. And he had a span of horses that cost $1000 and a wonderful carriage. He was awful rich. And Nellie was goin' to marry a man which was from Chicago. Pa and ma were goin' to the wedding; and ma could hardly get ready it took her so long to dress. She wore her silk dress which her sister had given her, and looked prettier than I ever saw her. Mitch and me had to sneak off because I was supposed to stay with Myrtle and Little Billie, as Delia, our girl, wanted to go out. Because I went, Delia had to stay, and she was as mad as hops.
But on the way over to Mr. Bennett's, Mitch told me that they had brought colored waiters from Chicago, from the Palmer House, the finest hotel in the world, where they had silver dollars in the floor. I couldn't believe this, but he said he had talked to Harold Carman, who had seen 'em with his own eyes, and counted 'em till he got tired. Mitch said that they had an orchestra from Chicago and were goin' to dance, that the wedding would cost $5000 which Mr. Bennett had offered to Nellie in money, or to take it for the cost of the wedding; and she took it for the wedding.
We climbed over the picket fence near the barn and dodged around past the bushes until we got up to a window where we kind of scrouched down and looked through lace curtains. There we saw everybody—all dressed up and talkin' and laughin'; and there was my pa and ma. Ma was holdin' her fan and talkin' to a man in a long black coat with all his white shirt showin', and diamonds in the shirt and a white tie. She looked very smilin' and different than when she talked to pa. Mitch's pa and ma warn't there, not bein' invited. The orchestra was playin' wonderful music; and finally all the people quit talkin'; the room got still, and the orchestra began to play somethin' very beautiful; and pretty soon Nellie Bennett came in holdin' the arm of Mr. Bennett, all in her veil and white satin, but I couldn't see the buckles on her shoes. And then the man she was goin' to marry—his name was Richard Hedges from Chicago—stepped out, and they both stepped in front of the minister, who was from Jacksonville, wearin' a black robe with white sash around his neck; and the orchestra stopped playin'. But just then we heard a twig or somethin' snap and we looked around quick and there was Doc Lyon who read the Bible all the time and acted queer. My pa thought he was crazy. And he began to say: "She doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians, her neighbors, which were clothed with blue, governors and rulers, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding upon horses. I will take away thy nose and thy ears; and thy residue shall fall by the sword. They shall also strip thee of thy clothes and take away thy fair jewels."
Doc Lyon's voice sounded like he was talkin' out of a cistern, and I grew sick at my stomach I was so scared. But both Mitch and me forgot the wedding for the time and turned our heads. And pretty soon we saw Doc Lyon kind of rolling a pistol over in his hand. We could see it. It glittered in the light; but Mitch and me were lyin' in the shadow there, and I don't believe he knew we were there. At least until I kind of lost my balance and fell over against Mitch and bumped him against the house, makin' a noise. We were scared to death, for we was afraid Doc Lyon could now see us, and know us, and would come over to us, and do something to us. Everybody was afraid of him, especially the boys. Well, probably he didn't know who it was, or but what maybe it was a big dog. So he stood a minute and then began to back off and finally turned and ran away into the darkness. Then we looked in again, and by now the minister was readin' from a book; and finally Mr. Hedges put a ring on Nellie's finger; then they knelt down and the minister prayed. Then they got up and kissed and the music started; and everybody stood in line to shake Nellie's hand and Mr. Hedges' hand, and kiss Nellie. And there was a lot of talk and laughin' and they began to dance. And Mitch whispered to me we'd better go; that we'd seen it and we could get to my house so as to let Delia go out and maybe square everything. So we took a different way from what Doc Lyon did, and ran as fast as we could, lookin' out for corners we turned, and got home. Delia was awful mad; it was about 9 o'clock now and she couldn't go out. She said this wedding was no wedding anyway; that Nellie Bennett was a heathen, havin' never been baptized and that people that got married without bein' baptized committed a sin. She was mad; but we edged around her, and finally she made some butter scotch for us and promised not to tell on us; and so did Myrtle and Little Billie.
Then Mitch and me began to talk about Doc Lyon and whether I shouldn't tell my pa so as to have him arrested; that he was a dangerous character. But how could I tell him without lettin' him know that we had been to the weddin', and our havin' Delia fixed? Then Mitch thought if we told and got my pa to arrest Doc Lyon and he got out, he would come for us, or maybe do somethin' to my pa. Anyhow Myrtle broke her word and told; but pa didn't say nothin' or do nothin'; he didn't talk much sometimes and nobody knew what he was thinkin' about.
Well, finally, Delia took Myrtle and Little Billie up to bed, and Mitch began to ask me if I knew about marriage. I had never seen anybody married before, but I knew about it because when I was only 6, the first day I went to school, a boy told me all about it, and it made me so shamed I didn't know what to do. And I didn't believe it; and when I told my ma, she said not to let boys tell me dirty lies, and to walk away from 'em. But since that time I had thought about it, and heard other things. I had heard my pa and ma say that Mrs. Rainey was in love with Temple Scott and wanted to marry him, although already married to Joe Rainey, her husband; and then you saw a lot of writin' on fences and sidewalks and on the schoolhouse walls; and some of the girls and boys said funny things sometimes. All the time it was plain enough that there couldn't be a family without a father as well as a mother; the father havin' to earn money, and the mother havin' to take care of the children, and of course no children where there were no father and mother, except orphans and things like that. Mitch and me talked this over and he said that if any boy said any dirty thing to me, to hit him one; and that if I'd come up some night, his pa would explain to me about flowers and plants and show me what a wonderful thing flowers are and how they mean everything when understood. And then he began to talk of Zueline Hasson, and how she made him feel so happy and so in love with everything, just because she was so beautiful, and her friendship was so beautiful to him.
Then Mitch wanted to know if I'd heard that this Mr. Hedges was marryin' Nellie Bennett for her money, and had come down from Chicago to get her for her pa's money. I had heard my pa say that; and Mitch said, "I believe it—there was too much splurge over there, and why wasn't some man right here in this town good enough for Nellie?" After a while pa and ma came home, and Mitch hearin' 'em slipped out, and I was up-stairs by the time they came up, with my light out. So I heard pa and ma talk in the next room.
Pa said: "Yep, you'll see it before six months. Mr. Bennett don't know any more about runnin' a store than the man who got his farm knows about runnin' a farm, which is nothin'. When men change their game, this way, they always lose. And that ain't all. Mr. Bennett is topplin' now. His house is mortgaged and he's hard up. But a fine house is always a bait to young men; and old folks always put out a bait in order to marry their daughters off."
Ma said: "Nothin' of the kind. They don't have to put out any bait. Look at you—was there any bait about me?"
"No," says pa.
"Of course there wasn't," said ma. "And you went around sayin' it would kill you if I didn't marry you—and besides I have your letters for it."
"Oh, well," says pa, "a fellow always does that."
"Yes," ma said, "you're right, a fellow always does that, bait or no bait. And I think the way you talk about marriage sometimes is just awful, and if the children heard you, you'd be raisin' up children that suspicions marriage and every holy thing." And she went on to say that there was something wrong with pa and with lots of men, who went around cryin' and pretendin' to die, and then after they got the girl, talked about baits, and about bein' fooled.
And pa said: "Do you know what a woman is?"
And ma said: "I don't know what you think she is."
"A woman," says pa, "is a bottle of wine. If you look at it and leave it alone, never open it, the wine is as harmless as water. And if you leave a woman alone, she can't do nothin' to you. She's just there on the table or the shelf—harmless and just a woman, just like the bottle of wine is just a bottle of wine. But if you get in love with her, that's like drinkin' the wine; she gets hold of you, and you begin to talk and tell your secrets, and make promises, and give your money away, just like a drunk man. Then if you marry her, that's like getting over the wine; you wake up and find you've been drunk and you wonder what you've said, and if you remember, you smile at yourself, and your wife throws up to you what you said and that you wrote her letters. And the man who put wine, women and song together, put three things that was just the same together."
And ma says: "No, a woman ain't a bottle of wine at all; a woman is a bird."
"What kind?" says pa.
And ma says: "I don't know the name of the bird, but it roosts on the back of the hippopotamus. The hippopotamus is big and clumsy like a man and can't see very well, just like a man, and has lots of enemies like a man; so when enemies come this here bird sets up an awful clatter and squawkin' and that warns the hippopotamus and so he can run or defend himself. And if it wasn't for women, men couldn't get along, because they have to be warned and told things all the time, and given pointers what to do and how to act, and what is goin' on around—and the fact is women is brains, and men is just muscle."
And pa says, "How does this bird live, if it's on the back of the hippopotamus all the time?" That kind of got ma, for she knew if the bird got off the back of the hippopotamus to eat, it couldn't warn the hippopotamus, and as the bird has to live, ma was kind of stumped, and she says—"Oh, well the bird lives all right, it catches things that flies by."
"It does?" says pa. "You don't know your botany—that bird feeds off of the delicious insects that is on the back of the hippopotamus. So it don't have to get off for food, the same as a woman. And that ain't all," says pa; "men are performers and women is the audience; and women just sit and look and criticize, or maybe applaud if they like the performer; and men have to act their best, write the best books, and make the best speeches, and get the most money so as to please women which is the audience—and a woman can't do nothin' but applaud or criticize, and stir up the men to do their best—just because men, until they know better, want to please the women so as to get them for wives or somethin'."
And so pa went on till ma said: "I've heard enough of this—" and she went into the next room and slept with Little Billie.
And pa called out and said, "You ain't mad, are you?" And ma called back, "Just keep to your own self and shut up."
But as I can't come back to this again, I'll say that Mr. Bennett did fail and lose everything; and in about a year Nellie came back, her husband havin' left her after her pa failed; and she began to clerk in one of the stores, and is yet.
After I met Mitch and after we saw the fight and the wedding, we went out to Montgomery's woods a few times in the afternoon when school was over. But we couldn't do much, because first we read "Tom Sawyer" along settin' on stumps and logs. We had to get the idea into our heads better; at least I did, because now we was about to carry out what Tom had done and wrote about—or what Mark Twain had wrote about for him. So we'd no sooner dig a few spadefuls than it would be gettin' dark, and we'd have to go home.
One evening it began to rain and then thunder and lightnin', and we stood in a kind of shed for a bit, when all of a sudden I felt creepy and tingly, and saw a flash, followed by awful thunder; and of course I knew I had got a shock. Perry Strickland had been killed the summer before just this a way; and it seemed like once in a while God just launched out like you'd swat a fly, and took somebody; and of course you couldn't tell who He was goin' to come after next. Things like this, besides lots of other things, my grandpa's prayers and other things, had made me think a lot of religion, so as to be ready if I was to be took by lightnin' or drownin' or anything suddent. And some of the boys said that if you was drowned and didn't have nothin' on, you'd be kept out of heaven, and sent to a place of punishment. So it began to look like they was a lot of things to think about and be careful of.
I hadn't told Mitch because I didn't know just how he'd take it, even if he was a preacher's son; but I'd been goin' at nights sometimes down at a revival or protracted meeting at the church, not Mr. Miller's, but another church, a Baptist, I believe, or maybe Campbellite. And I had listened to the revivalist and heard the singin' and the experience speeches. And heard the revivalist say that you had to be immersed, that baptized meant to be put clear under, and that sprinklin' wouldn't do.
So I got Mitch to go the next night after the wedding, to see what he thought, but also to pay him back a little for takin' me to the fight and to the wedding. We went in together and sat down pretty fur back, and the meeting began. A man got up pretty fat and good natured, with a voice that just went into you like when you push one key of the organ down and keep pumpin'. And he said a long prayer and asked for light and help, and for light to shine in the hearts of the people present, so as to show 'em their sin; and to save people from death, and from sudden death, and if they died, then that they might be ready and be saved. And he asked for power to preach the gospel and for humbleness and understanding to receive the gospel after it was preached. And so on for a good while. And a good many said, "Amen." And then they sang "Angel Voices Ever Singing." Then the revivalist asked for songs and somebody called out, "Away in a Manger, No Crib for a Bed"; and they sang that. He asked for another one—and somebody called out, "There Were Ninety and Nine that Safely Lay." And somebody else wanted "I was a Wandering Sheep." And so it went till you could kind of feel things workin' up like when the lightning made me tingle. Then this revivalist preached a bit and talked about salvation and baptism, and about believin' and being baptized in order to be saved. Then they had another song, "Work, for the Night is Coming"; and then the revivalist called for experience speeches. And old John Doud, the photographer, got up first, right away. He was bald and one of his eyes was out; he was fat and his mouth watered. And he began to tell what religion had done for him; how before he got religion nobody could live with him, he was so selfish and cross; how he was mean to his wife, and how he drank sometimes. And now he was all different; he was happy all the day and agreeable to everybody and had been good to his wife before she died, and generous to everybody and didn't care whether he had a dollar in his pocket or a coat on his back so long as he could help somebody; and how he hated drink now—couldn't bear the sight of it; and he was thankful and ready to die any minute and go to the blest in heaven and meet his wife, who was there. Lots of people talked right out loud while he was speakin' and said, "Yes," "That's it," "That's what it does for you," and such like. And he sat down, but popped right up again and said there was a man in town who needed the prayers of the church and he says, "You all know him—Joe Pink." Of course we all knew Joe Pink, who was the honorariest man in town, and a good deal in jail.
Then Harry Bailey got up. He'd had religion before several times. Every winter he got it if there was a revival; and if somebody had a new way of being baptized, he'd try it. He went on to say that he'd been sprinkled and dipped; that he'd had the double baptism of bein' sprinkled and dipped, but he'd never been really immersed—baptized; and now he knew it was the only thing and he'd been livin' in sin all these years. They said halleluyah to that, and everybody began to shake his hand, and pat him on the back, till pretty soon he keeled over in a fit like he had sometimes, and the revivalist said—"Just stand back—he may have the gift of tongues and begin to prophesy." But Harry just laid there kind a kickin' like a chicken with its head off and finally got up and sat down ready to be received into the church when they had the general baptism. They had a kind of tank under the pulpit, and when they got enough to make it worth while, the revivalist put on rubber boots and stepped down into this here tank and received 'em as they came to him, puttin' 'em clear under and then takin' 'em out.
After Harry Bailey talked, Mrs. Penny talked. She said she could do more washin' since she got into the church than ever, and that it had been the makin' of her. John Cruzan, a fighter, said he hadn't wanted to hurt a livin' soul since he was baptized. And so it went.
Mitch was settin' on the end of the seat next the aisle, and I was on the inside. Pretty soon the revivalist came down and spied Mitch. He just saw him as a boy, and didn't know who he was. Just then they were singin' "Knockin', Knockin', Who is There?" And it was dreadful solemn, some were moaning, others crying out, some were clappin' their hands, and lots were being talked to to bring 'em over. So this revivalist kneeled down and says to Mitch:
"Are you saved, my little friend?"
Mitch says, "Maybe, I don't know."
"Maybe," says he. "Well, don't you want to be certain to escape the condemnation?"
"I'd like to," says Mitch.
"This is the accepted time, and you can't afford to say maybe, you must say I am sure—I know it. What is your name?"
"Well, Mitch, have you had the advantages of a Bible training?"
"You've read it a little?"
"All of it."
"Do you believe it?"
"Well, then, why don't you stand up right now and say I believe it and come into the church?"
"I'd like to hear more about it."
"What part of it?"
"There's nothing more to say, Mitch. The Bible says believe and be baptized. Baptized means to be immersed. The Bible doesn't say believe and be sprinkled, or believe and be dipped. It says believe and be baptized. You have it plain, and the duty is plain. You can come in now while you are young and before the grasshopper is a burden, or you can wait until the days of sin come about you, and your eyes are blinded with scales and then try to come in. And maybe by that time you will have lost interest and be hardened; or you may die in sin while saying 'maybe' and not 'I'm sure.' Now what do you say?"
And Mitch says, "I won't to-night anyway."
Then the revivalist said, "Do you remember the rich man to whom the Lord said, 'Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee'?"
Mitch says, "Yes, he was braggin' about his barns and that he had food laid up for many days. I'm not braggin' about anything; I'm not rich or grown up, and that part of the Bible don't apply to me."
"Ah," said the revivalist, just like that, "it all applies to you and to me—and it's Satan that tells it doesn't; and here you are a bright boy that has read the Bible and you hesitate and argue while Jesus is waitin'. But the time will come when Jesus won't wait—when the gates will be shut. And Jesus will be in heaven with His own, and all the rest will be in the pit, burning with eternal fire. Don't you believe this?"
Mitch says, "No."
"Then you don't believe the Bible. Who have you heard talk these subjects?"
"What does he do, Mitchie?"
"He's a preacher."
The revivalist was stunned, and he looked at Mitch and kind of started to get away from him. Then Mitch says: "My pa debated baptism with another preacher last winter and beat him. I believe in sprinklin'. I've been sprinkled, and I will let it stay that way until I'm convinced."
Then the revivalist says: "Take your chance, my little friend," and went away. The meeting ended and we went home. To-morrow was Saturday, and we were going to dig for treasure.
Mitch and I had dug under pretty near every dead limb in Montgomery's woods and hadn't found a trace of any treasure. We began in April when the winds sang as they did in March. There were blackbirds around then and that bird that sings "spring day." Mitch's father knew the names of all the birds; but outside of crows, robins, jay-birds and things like that we didn't know 'em—neither Mitch nor I. We didn't care, for what's the use of knowing names of things? You can't pronounce 'em anyway, and I've noticed people get queer studying such things, like Homer Jones who gathered weeds and flowers and pinned long names on 'em.
When we began to dig, the sap was flowing out of the maple trees. And once George Montgomery saw us digging. He had come over to empty his buckets of sap to make some maple sugar. And he said, "What are you boys doing?" and laughed and said—"Don't bother my buckets. If you want a taste of sap take it, but don't get the buckets askew so they will spill."
Mitch called back to him, "What do you say, George, if we find a tea-kettle of money buried here sommers, buried by old Nancy Allen?" And George said, "Take it along—but you'll dig the whole world up before you do."
You see Mitch was foolin' because we didn't think Nancy Allen had left her money there, if she had any. But Mitch didn't want to say that we was followin' the direction of Tom Sawyer for treasure. We kept the book hid under a log, and every now and then would take it out and read it to see if we missed any of the points. If we had told George Montgomery what we was doin', he would have laughed at us and told everybody, and had the whole town laughin' at us. Because we knew nobody but us had any faith in such things. But Mitch had faith and so had I. We agreed that there was treasure to be found, and if we worked we believed we could get it.
It was a good thing that Nancy Allen died that winter and that Mitch said that, because it threw George off. Nobody believed in Tom Sawyer as a real person but us—we did. We knew he was real. Mitch was going to write a letter to him and send it to Hannibal, Missouri, for Mitch's dad said there was no town of St. Petersburg in Missouri—and that Mark Twain had used that name as a blind.
And just about then this here Nancy Allen disappeared. She was a funny little woman about as big as a 'leven year old girl, and wore a shawl around her head, and carried a cane and smoked a pipe. She allus came to town with Old Bender and his wife which was a friend or somethin' of Nancy, and a boy with a mouth as big as a colt's and as trembly, which was Old Bender's boy. They all lived together near town, and used to come in, first Old Bender, then his wife, then Nancy, then this boy walkin' in file, and they'd go to the grocery store and set around all day, and go home with bacon, tobacco and things.
I said Nancy disappeared in the winter. But there was snow and they didn't come to town—so just when she died nobody knows. But as I said, Mitch and I found her body right near a creek in Montgomery's woods in April. The snow was gone, and there she lay, what was left of her, wrapped up in her shawl. And no one knew how she got there or anything about it.
Mitch was the most curious boy you ever saw. He had read sommers about a singing bone—that if you take the bone of a person that has died like this, and hollow it out so as to make it into kind of a horn, and blow through it, a voice will come out of it and tell you how the person died and where the money is that's left and everything. So when we found her, Mitch was just about to take her arm bone which was stickin' through her shawl to make a horn of when I says, "Don't, Mitch, you'll get into trouble. That body must lie right there 'till the Corner comes." You see my father was States Attorney and I'd heard him say that. So we left Nancy just as she was and ran into town. I told my father, and the Corner went out and took us along, and we told what we knew. Then they took her body into town and got a jury and Mitch and I told about it, and our names were printed in the paper.
There was a story around that Nancy Allen was a miser, and of course they wondered how she died. And my pa got Old Bender in and cross-questioned him a whole day, with Mitch and me hid on top of a closet in the room. But Old Bender stuck to his story, that Nancy had started out to visit one of the Watkinses near Montgomery's woods, and probably got cold, or fainted or somethin'. Anyway, they let Old Bender go, and after that he came into town walkin' first, then his wife, then their boy, and Nancy gone.
They didn't find any money or anything. But George Montgomery was threw clean off when Mitch said we're diggin' for Nancy's treasure. For Mitch went on and said: "What was she doin' here in the woods? Goin' to see the Watkinses? That's pretty thin. She was here to get her money, that's what it was. And she fainted and froze to death. It's as plain as day. My pa thinks so, and that ain't all, the States Attorney thinks so too, doesn't he, Skeeters?" Of course I had to say yes, though I'd never heard my pa say any such thing. George left us and went about his buckets, and we went on diggin'. We saw George walk away and climb the rail fence and disappear. Then Mitch flung down his spade and sat on the log where we had "Tom Sawyer" hid and began to talk.
"Skeeters," he said, "just look how everything tallies. Tom's town was St. Petersburg, and ours here is Petersburg. His town was on a river. So is this town. We ain't got no Injun Joe, but how about Doc Lyon? Ain't he just as mysterious and dangerous as Injun Joe? Then if these woods don't look just like the woods Tom and Huck dug in, I'll eat my hat. Look here!" Mitch pulled the book out and showed me, and sure enough they were alike. "Then look at Old Taylor, the school teacher—ain't he the livin' image of Tom's teacher? And our schoolhouses look alike. And we ain't got any Aunt Polly, but look at your grandmother—she's the livin' image of Aunt Polly and just like her. Things can't be just alike, if they was, they wouldn't be two things, but only one. And I can go through this town and pick out every character. I've thought it over. The Welshman—that's George Montgomery's father. Nigger Jim—how about Nigger Dick? He's older and drinks, but you must expect some differences. And Mary—my sister Anne is just the same. Muff Potter—how about Joe Pink?—allus in trouble and in jail and looks like Muff. And the Sunday School's just the same, superintendent and all. And the circus comes to town just as it did in Tom's town. And the County Judge—no difference."
"Yes, but," I said, "your girl ain't the daughter of the County Judge like Becky Thatcher was. And her name is Zueline and that sounds like something beautiful not belonging to any town—but to some place I keep dreaming about."
"Skeeters," said Mitch, "you make me mad sometimes. As I told you, it can't be all alike. Now there's you—you ain't any more like Huckleberry Finn than the Sunday School superintendent is, not sayin' that you're him, for you're not. But it can't be all alike. I only say when it goes this far that it means something. And while I think I'm just like Tom Sawyer, for I can do everything he did, swim, fight, fish and hook sugar, and read detective stories, you're not Huck, and because you're not, it will be different in the end. We'll go along up to a certain point, and then it will be you, maybe, that'll give it a different turn. Maybe we'll get bigger treasure or somethin' better."
"I don't want no better luck than Tom and Huck had," said I. "But I believe it will be different, for you're different from Tom, Mitch. For one thing, you've read different things: The Arabian Nights, and Grimm's Stories, and there's your father who's a preacher and all your sisters and your mother who's so good natured and fat. These things will count too. So I say, if I'm not Huck, you're not Tom, though we can go on for treasure, and I see your argument mostly and believe in it."
Mitch grew awful serious and was still for a long while. Finally he said: "Skeeters, I just live Tom Sawyer and dream about him. I don't seem to think of anything else—and somehow I act him, and before I die, I mean to see him. Yes, sir, this very summer you and I, if you're game, will look on Tom Sawyer's face and take him by the hand."
"Why, Mitch," I said, "how can you do it? It must be more'n a hundred miles from here to where Tom lives."
"You bet it is," said Mitch. "It's near two hundred miles. I looked it up. But it's as easy as pie to get there. Look here—we can bum our way or walk to Havaner—then we can get a job on a steamboat and go to St. Louis—then we can bum or walk our way to Hannibal—and some fine mornin' you and I will be standin' on the shore of the Mississippi—and there'll be Tom and Huck, and you and me. And I'll say, 'Tom Sawyer, I'm Mitch Miller, and this here is Skeeters Kirby.' How's that for fun? Just think of it. I dream about this every night. And we'll strip and go swimmin', and fish and all go up to McDougal's Cave. And what would you say if we persuaded them to come back with us for a visit? Tom and Huck, you and me all walkin' arm in arm down the streets here? Why, the town'd go wild. And we'd go out to your grandmother's and stay all summer and just roll in pie and cake and good things—and ride horses, and fly kites. My—I just can't wait!"
So Mitch went on this way for quite a spell and then he switched and said: "Skeeters, what do you dream about?" "Flyin'," says I. "No!" said Mitch. "Do you really?" "As sure as you're livin'," I says. "Well, ain't that funny," said Mitch, "so do I. But how do you do it, with wings or how?" "No," I says, "I seem to reach up my hands and pull myself up, by rounds on a ladder, ropes or somethin'; and I'm always trying to get away from somethin'—like bears or sometimes it's a lion. But pa says it means I'm an aspirin' nature and born to pull up in the world. But," says I to Mitch, "do you ever dream of the Judgment Day?"
"Do I?" says Mitch. "You can better believe I do—and that's where my flyin' comes in, only I drift like one of these here prairie chickens about to light—I seem to be goin' down. And it was just last night I dreamed of the Judgment Day. First everything was mixed: here was Injun Joe and Doc Lyon, Joe Pink and Muff Potter, Aunt Polly and your grandma—everybody in these two towns all together. And Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, Joe Harper, Becky, Zueline, and your folks and mine—all of us was together. And then suddenly we seemed to be close to Bucky Gum's pasture; the well became a kind of pipe stuck up out of the ground and began to spout fire; and there was a great light in the sky and I saw Jesus coming down out of the sky, and there was thunder. Then I began to fly—drift down, and all of a sudden, kerplunk, I fell out of bed. And pa says—'Hey, Mitch, what's the matter?' 'It's the Judgment Day,' I says. 'Judgment nothin', says pa—'You've fallen out of bed. Get back in bed and go to sleep—you were hollerin' like an Indian.' Then I heard ma say to pa after a bit, 'Pa, you oughtn't to read so much of the Bible before the children. It makes 'em nervous.' Now, Skeeters, what do you dream about the Judgment Day?"
I was just about to tell him when I heard some one comin'. I looked up. It was Kit O'Brien and Mike Kelly comin' from the slaughter house. They had some liver and a bladder; and before we could square around Kit O'Brien came up and knocked "Tom Sawyer" out of Mitch's hand. And then it began. These boys belonged to a gang over the hill back of where, old Moody lived, and we was always fightin'. Mitch and Kit had fit before—and so had Mike and me. Mike licked me once and I licked him once. But Mitch had given Kit an awful lickin' with no come back. So now he thought his chance had come with Mike to help after disposin' of me. So what did they do, both of 'em, but go quick for Mitch, thinkin', I guess, to get rid of him and then lick me.
"No, you don't," says I; and I grabbed both of Mike's arms with my arms and held him out for to wrestle. I was awful strong in the back and arms and rangy, and nobody could trip me, and I could back up until I got a feller comin' good and then give a swing and land him. So there we was at it—I holdin' Mike, and Mitch and Kit squared off boxin' like mad. I gave Mike the swing and tumbled him, and then lay on him and held him down. But it was awful hard and he was gradually gettin' away from me, and strikin' me in the chest and sometimes in the face. He had big fists and an awful punch. Meantime I was watchin' Mitch and Kit as much as I could and neither of 'em seemed to have much the best of it, when all of a sudden I heard a voice say, "Stop that," and there was Henry Hill, the town marshal, drivin' a lot of kids ahead of him. Well, we all stopped fightin'. And what do you suppose? Jerry Sharp who had a garden near Fillmore Creek had complained about the boys goin' in swimmin' where his girls settin' out tomato plants could see. So the marshal had come down and arrested 'em and was drivin' 'em into town.
He just added Mitch and me and Kit and Mike to the crowd and took us all in. When we got to the calaboose, he unlocked the door and started to put us in. Then he laughed and said, "Now go home." And so we hustled away.
It warn't more'n a day or two after this that my pa said that Old Bender's house had burned down the night before, and he thought maybe the old feller had set it afire. You see the story still clung about Nancy Allen, and maybe he'd killed her, and my pa bein' the States Attorney started to look into it.
Mitch and me and Little Billie were sittin' on the steps listenin' to Mitch readin' "Tom Sawyer," and my sister was there too. She always seemed in the way somehow, because she looked so steady with big eyes and every now and then would ask questions that Mitch couldn't answer or no one. While we was sittin' there my pa drove up in a rig, and said he was drivin' out to Bender's house that was burned, and wanted ma to go. She couldn't, and so I spoke up and asked him to take Mitch and me, and he said get in. Then Little Billie began to cry to go—but pa said no, and I did. But when we got on the way, I saw tears in Mitch's eyes, and he said, "I'll never go again and leave Little Billie. It ain't fair and I can't stand it." Mitch was the tenderest hearted boy you ever see.
By and by we got out there, and sure enough the house was burned down, all fallen into the cellar. And Old Bender was pokin' around, and his wife and the boy with the big mouth. Nigger Dick was there cleanin' things away. My pa had sent him out to do it. We began to fuss around too and pa was askin' Old Bender how the fire started and all that.
Well, sir, what do you suppose? I got down in the cellar and began to scrape around and kick ashes and sticks around; and all at once I struck iron or something, and I scraped off the ashes and things and there was a soap kettle turned upside down, and sunk like in the dirt floor of the cellar. I leaned down and tugged and pulled it up and inside was a lot of cans, four or five, and inside the cans the greatest lot of money you ever see. Great big copper coins and silver dollars and paper dollars. Well, I was just paralyzed. I couldn't believe my eyes. Struck it, I says to myself—struck it without any more trouble or worry, and no need to see Tom Sawyer and find out how to find treasure. Here it was before my eyes. After a bit I called out, "O, Mitch"—but he was around sommers and didn't come till I called again. Then he peeked over into the cellar and I just pointed and couldn't speak. Mitch slid down into the cellar and bent over lookin' at the money, and turned to me and said, "Well, Skeeters, this is all right for you—but not for me. You found it, and I didn't. You've won out, but I've got to go on and find some for my own self."
"Not on your life," says I. "What's mine is yours. And besides we came here together—we've been working together; if we hadn't, you wouldn't have been here, and I wouldn't. It's all because we've been chums and huntin' together—and half of this is yours, just the same as half of it would be mine if you'd happened to get in the cellar first."
Just then Mitch found a piece of paper with Nancy Allen written on it, and a little bundle which he unwrapped and found inside a breast pin with the initials N. A. on it, which showed that the money was Nancy Allen's, saved from sellin' rags and paper. For we remembered when she used to go about with a gunny sack pickin' up old rags, bottles and things.
I was just puttin' the cans into the kettle when pa came up and saw me, and says, "What you got?" Then he saw what it was. And Nigger Dick came up and says, "Bless my soul!" And pa took the kettle up on the ground and began to count the money. "That's mine," I said to pa; but he didn't notice me, just went on countin' till he found out there was about $2000.00. Then he said, "This money goes to the county. Nancy Allen didn't have any relatives, and it goes to the county." Well, I began to perk up and I said, "Ain't Mrs. Bender her sister—and if it ain't mine for findin' it, why don't it go to her sister?" Pa said: "No, Mrs. Bender ain't her sister, and I know she didn't have any relatives. Anyway, we'll advertise and if no relatives claim the money, it goes to the county."
I began to sniffle. And Mitch says: "Tell me, then, how Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn got to keep what they found. Injun Joe had no relatives, and Judge Thatcher knew the law, or was supposed to; and why didn't that money go to the county?"
"Why, Mitch," said pa, "don't you know that's just a story? You don't take that for true. You mustn't let a yarn like that get into your head and fix your ideas about things. And it's a good lesson to both of you. You'll find when you grow up that there'll be lots of prizes that are just about to fall in your hands when some superior right takes 'em away. And you'll find that everything that happens in boyhood and on the school yard happens when you grow up, only on a bigger scale, and hurts more. And you'll see that everything in life when you're grown is just a repetition of what happens on the school yard—friendship, games, battles, politics, everything."
By this time Nigger Dick had come up again and he said he'd found some footprints coming to and going away from the house. It had rained the night before and the marks had staid. So pa got Old Bender and made him walk and compared the prints, but they wasn't the same. And pa said that was a clew. For Old Bender claimed he woke up and found the house on fire. So they took a box and turned it upside down over some of the prints and then pa took the kettle and put it in the rig, and Old Bender came up and said that he knew Nancy Allen had some money, but he didn't know where she kept it. Then we drove away.
Pa was quiet, like he was thinkin'. But I could see Mitch was mad, not that he expected any of the money, but because he wanted me to have it and thought I deserved it.
We drove past the Old Salem mill comin' home. We'd fished there lots of times, Mitch and I—not this summer yet, but other summers. We used to sit on the dam and fish. And pa hadn't hardly said a word till we came to the mill. Then he said, "If you boys are lookin' for treasure, why don't you come here?" He knew we'd been diggin' in Montgomery's woods, but didn't say nothin'. Then Mitch says, "Where would you dig—along the shore or where? Or is there a cave around here?" Pa said "whoa" and stopped the horses. He said, "Look up there. Don't that look like Cardiff's hill in 'Tom Sawyer'?" "Well, it does," said Mitch.
Here was a high hill hanging right over the road and about twict as high as the mill, or maybe more, with a road winding up to the top. And pa says: "More treasure was found on the top of that hill than anywhere in the world, and who knows, maybe some is left there yet. Now I'm going to take Nancy Allen's money and put it in my vault in the court house. You boys can't have it. It's against the law. But I promise you that any treasure you find here, I'll let you keep."
I felt better now, and Mitch's eyes were standin' out of his head. Then pa said, "Get up" to the horse, and we drove into Petersburg about a mile. Mitch tried to get pa to say where it was best to dig; but pa said: "You boys go out there—see what you can find, dig around too, if you want to, and tell me what you find."
We got into town after a while and pa took the kettle with all the cans out of the rig and we followed him into his office and saw him put 'em into the vault and close the door and turn the knob. It was worse than buryin' a pet dog to see this. It took away our hopes. But there was no help for it. So we walked out and Mitch said, "If you'll come up to supper, I'll come back to your house and stay all night." "That's a go," I said, "And besides to-morrow is Saturday, and you promised to help me make garden, if I'd help you." And Mitch said all right, and so we went to his house.
The Miller family was awful big, five girls and Mitch, and all the healthiest children you ever saw, fat and rosy and full of fun; and we had the best times there you ever knew of. And Mr. Miller was always reading to Mrs. Miller, with all the children racin' through the house and laughin'. It made no difference—he read right on; but sometimes Mrs. Miller would look up from her sewin' and say, "Read that over, Robert, I lost that," and that would be when the children made such a noise you couldn't hear nothin'. So when we got to the house, there was Mr. Miller, readin' English history to Mrs. Miller, and the children already playin' blind man's buff, and makin' a terrible noise, though it was before supper. Zueline Hasson had come over and was goin' to stay to supper too. She was Angela Miller's friend besides bein' Mitch's sweetheart. You ought to have seen Mitch look when he saw Zueline. He just stood a minute like he was lookin' at an angel he was afraid of.
Pretty soon Mrs. Miller said she had to have a bucket of water, and Mitch went to pump it, and Zueline went with him. The sun was down now, but it was bright day, and the robins were singin' their heads off, and the air smelt of grass and flowers. I stood at the kitchen window and watched Mitch pump a cup of water for Zueline and hand it to her. And I knew what it meant; for Mitch had told me that he couldn't be near her without a lump comin' into his throat. He said it was like religion, for Mitch had got religion too, and he'd seen lots of people get it, and he knew what it was. And as for Zueline, she thought Mitch was the finest boy in town, which he was.
By and by we set down to supper. There was nine of us, and the awfullest gigglin' and talkin' you ever heard, even before Mr. Miller had hardly finished sayin' grace. We had oatmeal and eggs and biscuits and jam and milk; and Mr. Miller was talkin' English history to Mrs. Miller, no more disturbed by us children than if we wasn't there. After that we played blind man's buff. And every time Mitch could find Zueline, and trace her about the room, though she didn't make any noise at all, and I knew he couldn't see. It was almost spooky.
Before we started to go Mitch said he had to feed Fanny, which was his dog that he loved most to death.
Fanny was about to have some puppies, and he kept her in the barn. So we made up a dish of things and went out to the barn, Mitch whistlin' all the way and callin' to her. "That's funny," said Mitch. "She doesn't answer. I wonder why." We got to the barn and opened the door and he called again, but no Fanny. Then he went in and tramped around the stalls but couldn't find her. So Mitch went back to the house for a lantern and we looked all through the barn and finally all around the barn. And pretty soon he saw her lyin' by the barn. She was dead—all over blood. Somebody had run a great knife like a scythe or a corn-cutter through her. And I never see a boy cry like Mitch did. He ran back and told Zueline and she and all the children came out and most of us cried. Then Mr. Miller came out, and Mrs. Miller, and Mr. Miller said he believed Doc Lyon had done it—that he had seen him in the alley in the afternoon. And Mitch said he'd kill Doc Lyon. And that scared Mrs. Miller, and she said, "Keep away from him, Mitchie, he's gone crazy over religion and he'll kill you." "It's a good day," said Mitch, "Skeet loses his treasure, and my dog's killed—it's a good day." Then Zueline took Mitch's hand and said, "Never mind, my pa's goin' to get me an Ayrdale and I'll make him get two, one for you." So we threw a blanket over Fanny and Mitch took Zueline home, and I went home and waited for Mitch to come.
When he did come he was in better spirits. Zueline had cheered him up. He said he worshiped her—that he'd kill any one who spoke a bad word about her, and that he intended to protect her as long as he lived.
Then Mitch and me went to my house. It was now about ten o'clock, and pa hadn't come home. There seemed to be a lot stirrin' someway, and ma said, "Your father is very busy, and we'll all go to bed and not wait for him. He has a key of his own." So pretty soon we were all in bed with the lights out. And in about a minute we heard the latch in the stairway door begin to rattle, and ma says, "What's that?" and called down and said, "Is that you, pa?" No answer, just the rattlin'. Well, ma had bolted the door on the inside, and whoever it was couldn't open the door at once, but kept up the rattlin'. Then ma turned white and said, "One of you boys must go for George Montgomery. I'll let one of you out of the window and the other must stay here and help to fight." Mitch said, "You go, Skeet, you're a faster runner than me, and maybe he'll hop after you, whoever he is. I'll stay here and take a bed-slat and brain him as he comes up the stairway." "No," says I, "I think it's more dangerous to stay than to go—let's draw straws to see who goes." Meantime ma took a sheet off the bed. We drew straws and the lot fell to me to go. So ma let me down by the sheet. No sooner did I reach the ground than bang went the dining room window and the man was after me.
I went over the first fence like a deer, the man after me. I ran up the road, took the back fence of Montgomery's place, and ran up the arbor way. I knew the land, the feller after me didn't. I lost him somewhere. In a minute I was under George's window, calling. He was still up and he came right down with his walking stick and a pistol, just as good natured and comfortin' as he could be.
George went all through the house, but found no one. Then we went to the barn, but found nothing. As we were coming back, I saw some one drop down behind the raspberry bushes. George saw it too, and made for the fellow. He fired at us. The bullet whizzed past Mitch's head, and we dropped in the grass. But George went on, shooting as he went, and finally got up to the fellow and struck his arm down as he was about to fire. Then he grabbed him and took away his pistol. And there was Doc Lyon!
The next morning Nigger Dick came to beat carpets, for ma was cleanin' house; and Mitch and me were makin' garden, and talkin' to Nigger Dick. He was the funniest nigger you ever saw and the best hearted, except when he was drunk, then he was cross and mumbled to himself. His wife was Dinah who wore circle ear-rings and used to cook for the Bransons when they had lots of company. The Bransons were the richest people in town and had lots of parrots and poodles, and Mrs. Branson et snuff. They was from Virginia, ma said; and Mitch and I used to talk to Dinah over the back fence when she was cookin' there. She wore a red bandanna around her head, and she used to say, "Look heah, you boys, if you see that nigger drinkin', you come and tell me, cuz I ain't goin' to live with him no more if he drinks." Then she'd hand us out cookies or somethin', and say go along.
Nigger Dick was singin':
Nicodemus was a slave of African birth, Who was bought for a purse full of gold,
and beatin' carpets, and doin' whatever ma told him. She kept changing her mind and would say: "Here, Dick, help me with this picture. Now you can leave that and set out this geranium. Here, Dick, that can go for a while, go down to the barn and bring up that barrel there and put this stuff in it."
Dick knew ma, and bein' disorderly himself, didn't care what he did, or whether he finished anything. So he kept saying, "Yes'm," "Yes'm," and workin' away. So every time Dick got near us, we'd talk to him and get him to tell us about his father which was a slave, or about Kentucky. Little Billie was playin' near us, for Mitch was makin' him a little onion bed, and Dick was ridin' Little Billie on his shoulder, and he was as gay as a jay-bird and singin'. One of his songs was:
Oh, said a wood-pecker settin' on a tree, I once courted a fair ladee. She proved fickle and from me fled, And ever since then my head's been red.
And "Babylon is Fallin'" was another of his songs, and "Angel Gabriel." Mitch would rather be around where Nigger Dick was than any one. He almost laughed himself sick that mornin'.
Well, we told Nigger Dick about catchin' Doc Lyon; and we took him around to where I had been let down by the sheet, and showed him how I had run and jumped the fence to get away. Nigger Dick began to act awful mysterious and say, "You can't fool this nigger," and he kept goin' back and forth from the window to the fence, lookin' at the ground. And by and by he went and asked ma if he could go down town. He wanted to see my pa about somethin'. So he went off, and Mitch and I went on makin' garden, till ma came and set us to work buildin' a flower bed. That was one trouble with ma, you no sooner got started on one thing than she changed her mind and wanted you to do somethin' else. "Never mind," said Mitch, "we're havin' fun, whatever it is. But what do you suppose your pa meant by sayin' that that hill above the Old Salem mill had given up more treasure than any place in the world? Who got it? Now pa says that Linkern lived there onct and kept store, but he didn't get it. He was so poor that he used to have welts on his legs from wearin' the same buckskin pants. That's what pa says. So if he didn't get the treasure, who did? It couldn't be Mr. Branson, for he got his start raisin' onions and peddlin' 'em here in town. All the same, your pa must have meant somethin'. But I tell you, Skeet, we've lost this Saturday, and it's too far to go after school. So I say let's go out there next Saturday—start early and prospect around as they say—look the land over. And keep goin' till we clean the place up, like we did Montgomery's woods."
Just then pa and Nigger Dick drove up. Pa had a shoe in his hand and went and began to put the shoe in the prints where Doc Lyon had run from the window to the fence. "It fits," says Dick, and laughed, and I said to pa, "What you got, Doc Lyon's shoe?" And pa said, kind of gruff and absent minded, "Yes." "Well," says I, "You don't need any shoe to tell it was Doc Lyon that chased me." Pa didn't answer me. He said, "Come on, Dick," and they started for the buggy. Ma came runnin' to the door and said, "Where you goin', Dick? The carpets must be cleaned and laid." "I don't know," says Dick, "I'm in the hands of the law." "Back after while," said pa, as he gave the horse a tap with the whip and drove off.
Ma stood in the door and said: "No order, no system, never anything done. It's just too discouraging. Just as I get Dick and have him well started at work, your pa comes and takes him off." Then she turned to us and said, "Don't work any more on the flower bed. Come with me. I want you boys to build a chicken coop. The old hen must be shut up to-night, and you must hurry." Mitch smiled a little, but we went into the back yard and got some lath and made the coop.
Well, after while Nigger Dick came back. They had driven out to Bender's place and put the shoe in the footprints out there, and sure enough they fit and pa had gone to the jail and quizzed Doc Lyon about the fire and he had confessed and told everything. And that wasn't all. "Why," said Nigger Dick, "that Doc Lyon is the devil himself. He killed Nancy Allen—Yes, he did. He says so. And that ain't all. He killed your dog, Mitch. And even that ain't all; all these cows that got cut so they couldn't give milk, he cut 'em—yes sir, that devil cut 'em. And your pa is goin' to have him hanged. And that ain't all. If he'd got up-stairs last night, he'd a killed your ma. Yes, sir. He's the awfulest devil in this county. And you see when he used to go to Sunday School and walk the streets readin' the Bible, he was just playin' possum. He'd sold himself to the devil and he was tryin' to hide it."
I said to Mitch, "Was Injun Joe ever in jail?" Mitch said: "Skeet, you don't act like sense sometimes. You know dern well he was in jail. How could he get into court if he wasn't in jail? Don't you remember when Tom was testifyin' agin him that he broke loose and jumped through the court house window and escaped, and nobody ever saw him again until Tom found his body at the door of McDougal's cave?"
"Well," says I, "he might have been out on bail." "What's that?" said Mitch. "I don't know," says I. "It's a way to keep from goin' to jail, and since the book don't say that Injun Joe was in jail, I'll bet you he never was. Poor old Muff Potter was in jail after the murder and he didn't kill anybody. It was Injun Joe that did the killin'. And don't you remember that Tom and Huck went to the jail one night and stood on each other's backs so they could talk to Muff through the bars?" "I have an idea," says Mitch, "let's go to the jail to-night and talk to Doc Lyon. Your pa and Jasper Rutledge, the sheriff, are friends, and he knows us. And besides, Joe Pink is in jail. Look at it: Joe Pink is Muff Potter and Doc Lyon is Injun Joe, and we'll go to see 'em just like Tom and Huck went to see Muff Potter. Only, as I said before, Skeet, you're no more like Huck than my pa is like Nigger Dick."
"Well," says I, "it makes no difference. We'll go. For you can bet Doc Lyon will never be free again, and we can look at him and ask him questions, and see what he has to say."
We got down to the jail about dusk, and Mitch insisted on rollin' a barl up to the window and climbin' up on it, so as to make it as much like Tom Sawyer as possible. The window was too high for us to stand on each other's backs. Just as we got the barl up, along comes Jasper Rutledge, the sheriff, and he says, "Hey, what you boys doin'?" "We want to talk to Doc Lyon," says I. "What about?" says he. "About my dog," says Mitch. The sheriff looked at us curious for a minute and says, "If I let you talk to him, will you promise not to tease him or get him mad?" "Yes, Mr. Rutledge," both of us said. "Well then," said the sheriff, "don't fool around with that barl; I'll let you inside the jail and you can stand comfortable and talk to him." Mitch didn't know what to say to this. He just toed the ground with his toe, and finally said, "We'd rather stand on the barl, Mr. Rutledge." I knew what he meant. It wouldn't be like Tom Sawyer to go inside. And the sheriff laughed and said, "Well, I'll swan, have it your way. But mind you, I'm going to hide and hear what is said, for I want to hear what he says about all this devilish work. But if you tease him or say anything out of the way, I'll stop it and drive you off."
So we promised and Mitch rolled the barl up to the winder and we both stood on it and looked in. First thing we see was Joe Pink. He was in there for bein' drunk, and beatin' his wife. And he went on to tell about his life, how he'd most worked himself to death tryin' to support her and the children, and how she couldn't cook, and how she never had the meals ready, and how he'd come home so hungry he could eat glue, and she'd be talkin' over the back fence with Laura Bates, and how he didn't like her any more anyway, because she had lost most of her teeth, and spluttered her words. Then he'd get drunk, he said, to forget. And just then a voice said, "No drunkard shall enter the kingdom of heaven." It was Doc Lyon in a separate place, behind another iron door. And Joe Pink turned on him and said: "I suppose dog killers and house burners and cow-cutters and murderers get in. They do, do they? Well, you can send Joe Pink down to the devil. I don't want to go nowhere where you go—you can bet on that."
By this time we could see clear into the dark, and there stood Doc Lyon quiet like, his hands holding the bars, awful white hands, and his eyes bright like a snake's when it raises up to strike. Then Doc Lyon began to talk. First he was talking about Mitch's dog. He said it wasn't decent to have that dog around where children could see her, and that he had killed her because God told him to. Then he began to talk the Bible and talk about Ohalibah and say: "She doted on her lovers, on the Assyrians, her neighbors, which were clothed with blue, governors and rulers, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding upon horses. And I will set my jealousy against thee, and they shall deal with thee in fury; they shall take away thy nose and thine ears; and thy residue shall fall by the sword. They shall also strip thee of thy clothes and take away thy fair jewels." And so he went on for a long time. And Mitch whispered to me, "He's quoting from Ezekiel"—Mitch had heard his pa read it to his ma and he knew it.
Then Doc Lyon went on to talk about my ma, and to say that he didn't mean to kill her, but only to cut off her ears and her nose, because she was too pretty, and was an abomination to the Lord because she was so pretty, and the Lord had told him to do it. And then he said the Lord had told him to remove Nancy Allen because she lived with Old Bender and his wife, and it wasn't right. He was awful crazy; for if ever there was a harmless old couple and a harmless old woman, it was the Benders and Nancy Allen. And why did he want to kill her for livin' with the Benders? She had to live sommers, and didn't have any home of her own.
We didn't have to say hardly a word—Doc Lyon just went on and told about settin' Bender's house on fire to purify the abomination of the dwelling, he said, where Nancy Allen had lived.
We heard enough and slid off the barl. Then Jasper Rutledge came out and said: "Can you boys remember what he said? For that's a free confession he made, and you must testify, and I will. There'll be a hangin' in this jail, before the snow flies."
I was so scared and shook up that I was afraid to sleep alone. So as we went by, I asked ma if I could stay all night with Mitch. She said "yes." So when we got to Mitch's home, Mr. Miller was readin' to Mrs. Miller about Linkern and the girls were playing like mad. We forgot everything, until finally Mitch motioned to me and we went out-doors. Mitch said: "I was goin' to have a funeral over Fanny, but I can't stand it, Skeet. Let's just you and I bury her, here by the barn." So we dug a grave and buried Fanny, and Mitch cried. And then we went into the house and went to bed.
The next day was Sunday, and the wonderfulest day you ever saw. We had an early breakfast, for Mr. Miller was drivin' into the country that day to preach, and Mrs. Miller was goin' with him and the girls had to get the dinner. So nobody had to go to Sunday School, and I could keep out of it by not goin' home in time. A thought came to me and I said to Mitch, "You never saw my grandpa's farm—we can walk out there before noon and have dinner, and maybe get a lift on the way. And maybe grandpa or some one will drive us in in the morning in time for school." Mitch was crazy to go and see the farm; so we struck out, down through the town, under the trestle bridge, up the hill, past Bucky Gum's big brick house, past the fair grounds and along the straight road between the wheat fields. It was wonderful, and we sang and threw clods at birds and talked over plans about goin' to see Tom Sawyer. For Mitch said: "We'll try this Old Salem place, and if that doesn't pan out, then we'll go to Hannibal. Tom'll tell us; and if he can't, we'll see his crowd anyway and have a good time. And besides, I'm lookin' forward now to somethin'. I'm goin' to lose Zueline—I feel it all through. And if I do, it's time to get away from here and forget."
"What do you mean by lose her?" says I. "You'll always be in the same town and in the same school, and you'll always be friends."
"Oh, yes," said Mitch, "but that's just the trouble—to be in the same town and the same school and not to have her the same. I've got a funny feelin', Skeet—it's bound to happen. And anyway, if it don't, we must be up and doin' and get the treasure and then square off for somethin' else. And if I get it and all goes well, maybe Zueline and me will marry and be happy here. That's the way I want it."
It must have been two hours before we got to the edge of the wood where Joe Gordon lived. And I showed Mitch the oak tree where Joe had peeled off the bark to make tea for the rheumatism or somethin'. My grandma had told me. Finally we crossed the bridge over the creek, and climbed the hill. "There," I said to Mitch, "that's my grandpa's house. Ain't it beautiful—and look at the red barn—and over there, there's the hills of Mason County right by Salt Creek." Mitch's eyes fairly glowed; so then we hurried on to get to the house, which was about half a mile.
There wasn't a soul at home but Willie Wallace, the hired man. He was shavin' himself, goin' to see his girl, and he let us play on his Jews harp and smell the cigars he had in his trunk, which he had perfumed with cinnamon or somethin'. Grandpa and grandma had gone to Concord to church, and Uncle Henry was in town seein' his girl, and the hired girl was off for the day. We were hungry as wolves, so I took Mitch into the pantry where we found a blackberry pie, and a crock of milk, rich with cream. We ate the pie and drank the milk. Then I showed Mitch the barn and the horses, and my saddle. I took him into the work house where the tools were. I showed him the telephone I made which ran down to the tenant's house. And we got out my uncle's wagon and played engine; and went up into the attic to look for books. Mitch found a novel by Scott and began to read; and that was the last of him. I went back to the work house and pulled a kite I had made from the rafters and got it ready to fly.
After while grandpa and grandma came from church and when grandma came out of her room where she had changed her silk dress for a calico dress in order to get dinner, I stepped out from a door and said, "Hello, grandma." "Why, child," she said, "you almost scared me to pieces. What are you doin' here? Where's your popie and your momie?" Then I told her Mitch and I had walked out, and she took me into the kitchen and made me help her. By and by she went into the pantry for somethin' and when she came out she said: "Do you like blackberry pie, Skeet?" "Yes'm," I said. "Well, I guess you do—and you like milk, too. And now you go down to the cellar and get another crock of milk—do you hear? And if I hadn't put the other pies in the cupboard in the dining room, there'd be no pie for dinner." "No, grandma, we wouldn't eat more'n one—Mitch and I wouldn't, honest we wouldn't."
Mitch came in, then, and grandma looked at him kind of close and laughed, and asked him if he was goin' to be a preacher like his pa. Well, a funny thing came out. Mr. Miller had preached at Concord that morning, and grandma began to talk about the sermon and say it was the most beautiful she ever heard. Pretty soon she went out of the room for somethin', and Mitch said: "She's the livin' image of Aunt Polly—and so she should be my grandma and not yours; for I'm Tom if anybody is, even if you're not much like Huck."
Then we had dinner, and Mitch was readin' that novel while eatin', and grandma kept sayin', "Eat your dinner, Mitch." He did eat, but he was behind the rest of us.
We helped grandma with the dishes. Then she said, "You boys clear out while I take a rest. And after while I'll show you some things." She always took a nap after dinner, lying on a little couch under the two windows in the settin' room, where the fire-place was, and the old clock, and the mahogany chest that had come from North Carolina, given her by her grandmother, and her red-bird in a cage. Grandpa always fell asleep in his chair while reading the Petersburg Observer, which came the day before.
So Mitch and I walked through the orchard, and when we came back, I showed him the carriage with glass windows and the blue silk curtain; and the white horses which grandpa always drove. But we didn't put in the time very well, because we wanted grandma to wake up.
We went in the house at last, and they were talking together. I heard grandpa say something about Doc Lyon. We'd almost forgot that by now. But when we came in the room, grandma said, "Well, here you are," and went over and got out her drawer that had her trinkets in it. She had the greatest lot of pictures in rubber cases you ever saw; soldiers which were dead, and folks who had married and moved away or had died; and a watch which belonged to her son who was drowned before Mitch and I was born; and a ribbon with Linkern's picture on it; and breast pins with hair in 'em; and sticks of cinnamon. And by and by she went to her closet and got some peach leather, which Mitch had never seen before. And he thought it the best stuff he ever et. You make it by rolling peaches into a thin leather and dryin' it, and puttin' sugar and things in it. It's waxy like gum and chews awful well.
Then she got down her scrap book and read little things that Ben Franklin said, about temperance and work, and study, and savin' money. She asked Mitch if he had read the Bible through, and Mitch said yes, for he had. "You haven't," she said to me—"if you'll read it through, I'll give you five dollars." So I promised. "Now," she said, "you can do it by fall if you're industrious. Work and play—play hard and work hard, for the night cometh when no man can work." I never saw Mitch happier than he was this afternoon. The time slipped by, and finally grandma said to me to bring in the cows, she was goin' to milk. We began to wonder how we'd get back to town. But we went for the cows just the same and watched grandma milk, and helped her with the buckets, and watched her feed her cats. Then we said we must go, at least after supper. "How can you go?" said grandma, "you can't walk to-night. It's too far. Willie Wallace is going in town early with a load of corn, and you can ride." That suited us. So we had supper, fried mush and eggs and milk. Then we had prayers; and grandma put us in the west room up-stairs where there was a picture of Alfaratta, the Indian maid. And I think we would be sleepin' yet if she hadn't come in to wake us.