They swarmed up in front of Sherburn's palings as
thick as they could jam together, and you couldn't
hear yourself think for the noise. It was a little
twenty-foot yard. Some sung out "Tear down the
fence! tear down the fence!" Then there was a
racket of ripping and tearing and smashing, and down
she goes, and the front wall of the crowd begins to
roll in like a wave.
Just then Sherburn steps out on to the roof of his
little front porch, with a double-barrel gun in his hand,
and takes his stand, perfectly ca'm and deliberate, not
saying a word. The racket stopped, and the wave
Sherburn never said a word -- just stood there, look-
ing down. The stillness was awful creepy and uncom-
fortable. Sherburn run his eye slow along the crowd;
and wherever it struck the people tried a little to out-
gaze him, but they couldn't; they dropped their eyes
and looked sneaky. Then pretty soon Sherburn sort
of laughed; not the pleasant kind, but the kind that
makes you feel like when you are eating bread that's
got sand in it.
Then he says, slow and scornful:
"The idea of YOU lynching anybody! It's amusing.
The idea of you thinking you had pluck enough to
lynch a MAN! Because you're brave enough to tar and
feather poor friendless cast-out women that come along
here, did that make you think you had grit enough to
lay your hands on a MAN? Why, a MAN'S safe in the
hands of ten thousand of your kind -- as long as it's
daytime and you're not behind him.
"Do I know you? I know you clear through
was born and raised in the South, and I've lived in the
North; so I know the average all around. The
average man's a coward. In the North he lets anybody
walk over him that wants to, and goes home and prays
for a humble spirit to bear it. In the South one man
all by himself, has stopped a stage full of men in the
daytime, and robbed the lot. Your newspapers call
you a brave people so much that you think you are
braver than any other people -- whereas you're just AS
brave, and no braver. Why don't your juries hang
murderers? Because they're afraid the man's friends
will shoot them in the back, in the dark -- and it's just
what they WOULD do.
"So they always acquit; and then a MAN goes in
the night, with a hundred masked cowards at his back
and lynches the rascal. Your mistake is, that you
didn't bring a man with you; that's one mistake, and
the other is that you didn't come in the dark and fetch
your masks. You brought PART of a man -- Buck
Harkness, there -- and if you hadn't had him to start
you, you'd a taken it out in blowing.
"You didn't want to come. The average man
don't like trouble and danger. YOU don't like trouble
and danger. But if only HALF a man -- like Buck
Harkness, there -- shouts 'Lynch him! lynch him!'
you're afraid to back down -- afraid you'll be found
out to be what you are -- COWARDS -- and so you raise
a yell, and hang yourselves on to that half-a-man's
coat-tail, and come raging up here, swearing what big
things you're going to do. The pitifulest thing out is
a mob; that's what an army is -- a mob; they don't
fight with courage that's born in them, but with cour-
age that's borrowed from their mass, and from their
officers. But a mob without any MAN at the head of
it is BENEATH pitifulness. Now the thing for YOU to do
is to droop your tails and go home and crawl in a
hole. If any real lynching's going to be done it will
be done in the dark, Southern fashion; and when they
come they'll bring their masks, and fetch a MAN along.
Now LEAVE -- and take your half-a-man with you" --
tossing his gun up across his left arm and cocking it
when he says this.
The crowd washed back sudden, and then broke all
apart, and went tearing off every which way, and Buck
Harkness he heeled it after them, looking tolerable cheap.
I could a stayed if I wanted to, but I didn't want to.
I went to the circus and loafed around the back side
till the watchman went by, and then dived in under the
tent. I had my twenty-dollar gold piece and some
other money, but I reckoned I better save it, because
there ain't no telling how soon you are going to need
it, away from home and amongst strangers that way.
You can't be too careful. I ain't opposed to spending
money on circuses when there ain't no other way, but
there ain't no use in WASTING it on them.
It was a real bully circus. It was the splendidest
sight that ever was when they all come riding in, two
and two, a gentleman and lady, side by side, the men
just in their drawers and undershirts, and no shoes nor
stirrups, and resting their hands on their thighs easy
and comfortable -- there must a been twenty of them
-- and every lady with a lovely complexion, and per-
fectly beautiful, and looking just like a gang of real
sure-enough queens, and dressed in clothes that cost
millions of dollars, and just littered with diamonds. It
was a powerful fine sight; I never see anything so
lovely. And then one by one they got up and stood,
and went a-weaving around the ring so gentle and
wavy and graceful, the men looking ever so tall and airy
and straight, with their heads bobbing and skimming
along, away up there under the tent-roof, and every
lady's rose-leafy dress flapping soft and silky around
her hips, and she looking like the most loveliest parasol.
And then faster and faster they went, all of them
dancing, first one foot out in the air and then the other,
the horses leaning more and more, and the ringmaster
going round and round the center-pole, cracking his
whip and shouting "Hi! -- hi!" and the clown crack-
ing jokes behind him; and by and by all hands dropped
the reins, and every lady put her knuckles on her hips
and every gentleman folded his arms, and then how
the horses did lean over and hump themselves! And
so one after the other they all skipped off into the
ring, and made the sweetest bow I ever see, and then
scampered out, and everybody clapped their hands and
went just about wild.
Well, all through the circus they done the most
astonishing things; and all the time that clown carried
on so it most killed the people. The ringmaster
couldn't ever say a word to him but he was back at
him quick as a wink with the funniest things a body
ever said; and how he ever COULD think of so many of
them, and so sudden and so pat, was what I couldn't
noway understand. Why, I couldn't a thought of
them in a year. And by and by a drunk man tried to
get into the ring -- said he wanted to ride; said he
could ride as well as anybody that ever was. They
argued and tried to keep him out, but he wouldn't
listen, and the whole show come to a standstill. Then
the people begun to holler at him and make fun of
him, and that made him mad, and he begun to rip
and tear; so that stirred up the people, and a lot of
men begun to pile down off of the benches and swarm
towards the ring, saying, "Knock him down! throw
him out!" and one or two women begun to scream.
So, then, the ringmaster he made a little speech, and
said he hoped there wouldn't be no disturbance, and if
the man would promise he wouldn't make no more
trouble he would let him ride if he thought he could
stay on the horse. So everybody laughed and said all
right, and the man got on. The minute he was on,
the horse begun to rip and tear and jump and cavort
around, with two circus men hanging on to his bridle
trying to hold him, and the drunk man hanging on to
his neck, and his heels flying in the air every jump,
and the whole crowd of people standing up shouting
and laughing till tears rolled down. And at last, sure
enough, all the circus men could do, the horse broke
loose, and away he went like the very nation, round
and round the ring, with that sot laying down on him
and hanging to his neck, with first one leg hanging
most to the ground on one side, and then t'other one
on t'other side, and the people just crazy. It warn't
funny to me, though; I was all of a tremble to see his
danger. But pretty soon he struggled up astraddle
and grabbed the bridle, a-reeling this way and that; and
the next minute he sprung up and dropped the bridle
and stood! and the horse a-going like a house afire
too. He just stood up there, a-sailing around as easy
and comfortable as if he warn't ever drunk in his life
-- and then he begun to pull off his clothes and sling
them. He shed them so thick they kind of clogged
up the air, and altogether he shed seventeen suits.
And, then, there he was, slim and handsome, and
dressed the gaudiest and prettiest you ever saw, and
he lit into that horse with his whip and made him fairly
hum -- and finally skipped off, and made his bow and
danced off to the dressing-room, and everybody just
a-howling with pleasure and astonishment.
Then the ringmaster he see how he had been fooled,
and he WAS the sickest ringmaster you ever see, I
reckon. Why, it was one of his own men! He had
got up that joke all out of his own head, and never let
on to nobody. Well, I felt sheepish enough to be
took in so, but I wouldn't a been in that ringmaster's
place, not for a thousand dollars. I don't know;
there may be bullier circuses than what that one was,
but I never struck them yet. Anyways, it was plenty
good enough for ME; and wherever I run across it, it
can have all of MY custom every time.
Well, that night we had OUR show; but there warn't
only about twelve people there -- just enough to pay
expenses. And they laughed all the time, and that
made the duke mad; and everybody left, anyway,
before the show was over, but one boy which was
asleep. So the duke said these Arkansaw lunkheads
couldn't come up to Shakespeare; what they wanted
was low comedy -- and maybe something ruther worse
than low comedy, he reckoned. He said he could
size their style. So next morning he got some big
sheets of wrapping paper and some black paint, and
drawed off some handbills, and stuck them up all over
the village. The bills said:
AT THE COURT HOUSE!
FOR 3 NIGHTS ONLY!
The World-Renowned Tragedians
DAVID GARRICK THE YOUNGER!
EDMUND KEAN THE ELDER!
Of the London and Continental
In their Thrilling Tragedy of
THE KING'S CAMELEOPARD,
THE ROYAL NONESUCH ! ! !
Admission 50 cents.
Then at the bottom was the biggest line of all, which
LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED.
"There," says he, "if that line don't fetch them, I
don't know Arkansaw!"