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Chapter 10


CHAPTER X.

AFTER breakfast I wanted to talk about the dead
man and guess out how he come to be killed, but
Jim didn't want to. He said it would fetch bad luck;
and besides, he said, he might come and ha'nt us; he
said a man that warn't buried was more likely to go a-
ha'nting around than one that was planted and com-
fortable. That sounded pretty reasonable, so I didn't
say no more; but I couldn't keep from studying over
it and wishing I knowed who shot the man, and what
they done it for.

We rummaged the clothes we'd got, and found eight
dollars in silver sewed up in the lining of an old blanket
overcoat. Jim said he reckoned the people in that
house stole the coat, because if they'd a knowed the
money was there they wouldn't a left it. I said I
reckoned they killed him, too; but Jim didn't want to
talk about that. I says:

"Now you think it's bad luck; but what did you
say when I fetched in the snake-skin that I found on
the top of the ridge day before yesterday? You said
it was the worst bad luck in the world to touch a
snake-skin with my hands. Well, here's your bad
luck! We've raked in all this truck and eight dollars
besides. I wish we could have some bad luck like this
every day, Jim."

"Never you mind, honey, never you mind. Don't
you git too peart. It's a-comin'. Mind I tell you,
it's a-comin'."

It did come, too. It was a Tuesday that we had
that talk. Well, after dinner Friday we was laying
around in the grass at the upper end of the ridge, and
got out of tobacco. I went to the cavern to get some,
and found a rattlesnake in there. I killed him, and
curled him up on the foot of Jim's blanket, ever so
natural, thinking there'd be some fun when Jim found
him there. Well, by night I forgot all about the
snake, and when Jim flung himself down on the blanket
while I struck a light the snake's mate was there, and
bit him.

He jumped up yelling, and the first thing the light
showed was the varmint curled up and ready for
another spring. I laid him out in a second with a
stick, and Jim grabbed pap's whisky-jug and begun to
pour it down.

He was barefooted, and the snake bit him right on
the heel. That all comes of my being such a fool as
to not remember that wherever you leave a dead snake
its mate always comes there and curls around it. Jim
told me to chop off the snake's head and throw it
away, and then skin the body and roast a piece of it.
I done it, and he eat it and said it would help cure
him. He made me take off the rattles and tie them
around his wrist, too. He said that that would help.
Then I slid out quiet and throwed the snakes clear
away amongst the bushes; for I warn't going to let
Jim find out it was all my fault, not if I could help it.

Jim sucked and sucked at the jug, and now and then
he got out of his head and pitched around and yelled;
but every time he come to himself he went to sucking
at the jug again. His foot swelled up pretty big, and
so did his leg; but by and by the drunk begun to
come, and so I judged he was all right; but I'd
druther been bit with a snake than pap's whisky.

Jim was laid up for four days and nights. Then
the swelling was all gone and he was around again. I
made up my mind I wouldn't ever take a-holt of a
snake-skin again with my hands, now that I see what
had come of it. Jim said he reckoned I would believe
him next time. And he said that handling a snake-
skin was such awful bad luck that maybe we hadn't
got to the end of it yet. He said he druther see the
new moon over his left shoulder as much as a thousand
times than take up a snake-skin in his hand. Well, I
was getting to feel that way myself, though I've always
reckoned that looking at the new moon over your left
shoulder is one of the carelessest and foolishest things
a body can do. Old Hank Bunker done it once, and
bragged about it; and in less than two years he got
drunk and fell off of the shot-tower, and spread him-
self out so that he was just a kind of a layer, as you
may say; and they slid him edgeways between two
barn doors for a coffin, and buried him so, so they
say, but I didn't see it. Pap told me. But anyway
it all come of looking at the moon that way, like a
fool.

Well, the days went along, and the river went down
between its banks again; and about the first thing we
done was to bait one of the big hooks with a skinned
rabbit and set it and catch a catfish that was as big as
a man, being six foot two inches long, and weighed
over two hundred pounds. We couldn't handle him,
of course; he would a flung us into Illinois. We just
set there and watched him rip and tear around till he
drownded. We found a brass button in his stomach
and a round ball, and lots of rubbage. We split the
ball open with the hatchet, and there was a spool in it.
Jim said he'd had it there a long time, to coat it over
so and make a ball of it. It was as big a fish as was
ever catched in the Mississippi, I reckon. Jim said he
hadn't ever seen a bigger one. He would a been
worth a good deal over at the village. They peddle
out such a fish as that by the pound in the market-
house there; everybody buys some of him; his meat's
as white as snow and makes a good fry.

Next morning I said it was getting slow and dull,
and I wanted to get a stirring up some way. I said I
reckoned I would slip over the river and find out what
was going on. Jim liked that notion; but he said I
must go in the dark and look sharp. Then he studied
it over and said, couldn't I put on some of them old
things and dress up like a girl? That was a good
notion, too. So we shortened up one of the calico
gowns, and I turned up my trouser-legs to my knees
and got into it. Jim hitched it behind with the hooks,
and it was a fair fit. I put on the sun-bonnet and tied
it under my chin, and then for a body to look in and
see my face was like looking down a joint of stove-
pipe. Jim said nobody would know me, even in the
daytime, hardly. I practiced around all day to get
the hang of the things, and by and by I could do
pretty well in them, only Jim said I didn't walk like a
girl; and he said I must quit pulling up my gown to
get at my britches-pocket. I took notice, and done
better.

I started up the Illinois shore in the canoe just after
dark.

I started across to the town from a little below the
ferry-landing, and the drift of the current fetched me
in at the bottom of the town. I tied up and started
along the bank. There was a light burning in a little
shanty that hadn't been lived in for a long time, and I
wondered who had took up quarters there. I slipped
up and peeped in at the window. There was a woman
about forty year old in there knitting by a candle that
was on a pine table. I didn't know her face; she was
a stranger, for you couldn't start a face in that town
that I didn't know. Now this was lucky, because I
was weakening; I was getting afraid I had come;
people might know my voice and find me out. But if
this woman had been in such a little town two days
she could tell me all I wanted to know; so I knocked
at the door, and made up my mind I wouldn't forget I
was a girl.

Mark Twain