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Chapter 24


CHAPTER XXIV.

NEXT day, towards night, we laid up under a little
willow towhead out in the middle, where there
was a village on each side of the river, and the duke
and the king begun to lay out a plan for working them
towns. Jim he spoke to the duke, and said he hoped
it wouldn't take but a few hours, because it got mighty
heavy and tiresome to him when he had to lay all day
in the wigwam tied with the rope. You see, when we
left him all alone we had to tie him, because if any-
body happened on to him all by himself and not tied
it wouldn't look much like he was a runaway nigger,
you know. So the duke said it WAS kind of hard to
have to lay roped all day, and he'd cipher out some
way to get around it.

He was uncommon bright, the duke was, and he
soon struck it. He dressed Jim up in King Lear's
outfit -- it was a long curtain-calico gown, and a white
horse-hair wig and whiskers; and then he took his
theater paint and painted Jim's face and hands and
ears and neck all over a dead, dull, solid blue, like a
man that's been drownded nine days. Blamed if he
warn't the horriblest looking outrage I ever see. Then
the duke took and wrote out a sign on a shingle so:

  Sick Arab -- but harmless when not out of his head.

And he nailed that shingle to a lath, and stood the
lath up four or five foot in front of the wigwam. Jim
was satisfied. He said it was a sight better than lying
tied a couple of years every day, and trembling all
over every time there was a sound. The duke told
him to make himself free and easy, and if anybody
ever come meddling around, he must hop out of the
wigwam, and carry on a little, and fetch a howl or two
like a wild beast, and he reckoned they would light out
and leave him alone. Which was sound enough judg-
ment; but you take the average man, and he wouldn't
wait for him to howl. Why, he didn't only look like
he was dead, he looked considerable more than that.

These rapscallions wanted to try the Nonesuch again,
because there was so much money in it, but they
judged it wouldn't be safe, because maybe the news
might a worked along down by this time. They
couldn't hit no project that suited exactly; so at last
the duke said he reckoned he'd lay off and work his
brains an hour or two and see if he couldn't put up
something on the Arkansaw village; and the king he
allowed he would drop over to t'other village without
any plan, but just trust in Providence to lead him the
profitable way -- meaning the devil, I reckon. We
had all bought store clothes where we stopped last;
and now the king put his'n on, and he told me to put
mine on. I done it, of course. The king's duds was
all black, and he did look real swell and starchy. I
never knowed how clothes could change a body be-
fore. Why, before, he looked like the orneriest old
rip that ever was; but now, when he'd take off his new
white beaver and make a bow and do a smile, he
looked that grand and good and pious that you'd say
he had walked right out of the ark, and maybe was old
Leviticus himself. Jim cleaned up the canoe, and I
got my paddle ready. There was a big steamboat lay-
ing at the shore away up under the point, about three
mile above the town -- been there a couple of hours,
taking on freight. Says the king:

"Seein' how I'm dressed, I reckon maybe I better
arrive down from St. Louis or Cincinnati, or some
other big place. Go for the steamboat, Huckleberry;
we'll come down to the village on her."

I didn't have to be ordered twice to go and take a
steamboat ride. I fetched the shore a half a mile
above the village, and then went scooting along the
bluff bank in the easy water. Pretty soon we come to
a nice innocent-looking young country jake setting on
a log swabbing the sweat off of his face, for it was
powerful warm weather; and he had a couple of big
carpet-bags by him.

"Run her nose in shore," says the king. I done
it. "Wher' you bound for, young man?"

"For the steamboat; going to Orleans."

"Git aboard," says the king. "Hold on a minute,
my servant 'll he'p you with them bags. Jump out
and he'p the gentleman, Adolphus" -- meaning me, I
see.

I done so, and then we all three started on again.
The young chap was mighty thankful; said it was
tough work toting his baggage such weather. He
asked the king where he was going, and the king told
him he'd come down the river and landed at the other
village this morning, and now he was going up a few
mile to see an old friend on a farm up there. The
young fellow says:

"When I first see you I says to myself, 'It's Mr.
Wilks, sure, and he come mighty near getting here in
time.' But then I says again, 'No, I reckon it ain't
him, or else he wouldn't be paddling up the river.'
You AIN'T him, are you?"

"No, my name's Blodgett -- Elexander Blodgett --
REVEREND Elexander Blodgett, I s'pose I must say, as
I'm one o' the Lord's poor servants. But still I'm
jist as able to be sorry for Mr. Wilks for not arriving
in time, all the same, if he's missed anything by it --
which I hope he hasn't."

"Well, he don't miss any property by it, because
he'll get that all right; but he's missed seeing his
brother Peter die -- which he mayn't mind, nobody
can tell as to that -- but his brother would a give
anything in this world to see HIM before he died;
never talked about nothing else all these three weeks;
hadn't seen him since they was boys together -- and
hadn't ever seen his brother William at all -- that's the
deef and dumb one -- William ain't more than thirty
or thirty-five. Peter and George were the only ones
that come out here; George was the married brother;
him and his wife both died last year. Harvey and
William's the only ones that's left now; and, as I was
saying, they haven't got here in time."

"Did anybody send 'em word?"

"Oh, yes; a month or two ago, when Peter was
first took; because Peter said then that he sorter felt
like he warn't going to get well this time. You see,
he was pretty old, and George's g'yirls was too young
to be much company for him, except Mary Jane, the
red-headed one; and so he was kinder lonesome after
George and his wife died, and didn't seem to care
much to live. He most desperately wanted to see
Harvey -- and William, too, for that matter -- because
he was one of them kind that can't bear to make a
will. He left a letter behind for Harvey, and said
he'd told in it where his money was hid, and how he
wanted the rest of the property divided up so George's
g'yirls would be all right -- for George didn't leave
nothing. And that letter was all they could get him
to put a pen to."

"Why do you reckon Harvey don't come? Wher'
does he live?"

"Oh, he lives in England -- Sheffield -- preaches
there -- hasn't ever been in this country. He hasn't
had any too much time -- and besides he mightn't a
got the letter at all, you know."

"Too bad, too bad he couldn't a lived to see his
brothers, poor soul. You going to Orleans, you say?"

"Yes, but that ain't only a part of it. I'm going
in a ship, next Wednesday, for Ryo Janeero, where
my uncle lives."

"It's a pretty long journey. But it'll be lovely;
wisht I was a-going. Is Mary Jane the oldest? How
old is the others?"

"Mary Jane's nineteen, Susan's fifteen, and Joanna's
about fourteen -- that's the one that gives herself to
good works and has a hare-lip."

"Poor things! to be left alone in the cold world
so."

"Well, they could be worse off. Old Peter had
friends, and they ain't going to let them come to no
harm. There's Hobson, the Babtis' preacher; and
Deacon Lot Hovey, and Ben Rucker, and Abner
Shackleford, and Levi Bell, the lawyer; and Dr. Rob-
inson, and their wives, and the widow Bartley, and --
well, there's a lot of them; but these are the ones that
Peter was thickest with, and used to write about some-
times, when he wrote home; so Harvey 'll know where
to look for friends when he gets here."

Well, the old man went on asking questions till he
just fairly emptied that young fellow. Blamed if he
didn't inquire about everybody and everything in that
blessed town, and all about the Wilkses; and about
Peter's business -- which was a tanner; and about
George's -- which was a carpenter; and about Har-
vey's -- which was a dissentering minister; and so on,
and so on. Then he says:

"What did you want to walk all the way up to the
steamboat for?"

"Because she's a big Orleans boat, and I was afeard
she mightn't stop there. When they're deep they
won't stop for a hail. A Cincinnati boat will, but this
is a St. Louis one."

"Was Peter Wilks well off?"

"Oh, yes, pretty well off. He had houses and
land, and it's reckoned he left three or four thousand
in cash hid up som'ers."

"When did you say he died?"

"I didn't say, but it was last night."

"Funeral to-morrow, likely?"

"Yes, 'bout the middle of the day."

"Well, it's all terrible sad; but we've all got to go,
one time or another. So what we want to do is to be
prepared; then we're all right."

"Yes, sir, it's the best way. Ma used to always
say that."

When we struck the boat she was about done load-
ing, and pretty soon she got off. The king never said
nothing about going aboard, so I lost my ride, after
all. When the boat was gone the king made me pad-
dle up another mile to a lonesome place, and then he
got ashore and says:

"Now hustle back, right off, and fetch the duke up
here, and the new carpet-bags. And if he's gone over
to t'other side, go over there and git him. And tell
him to git himself up regardless. Shove along, now."

I see what HE was up to; but I never said nothing,
of course. When I got back with the duke we hid the
canoe, and then they set down on a log, and the king
told him everything, just like the young fellow had
said it -- every last word of it. And all the time he
was a-doing it he tried to talk like an Englishman;
and he done it pretty well, too, for a slouch. I can't
imitate him, and so I ain't a-going to try to; but he
really done it pretty good. Then he says:

"How are you on the deef and dumb, Bilgewater?"

The duke said, leave him alone for that; said he had
played a deef and dumb person on the histronic boards.
So then they waited for a steamboat.

About the middle of the afternoon a couple of little
boats come along, but they didn't come from high
enough up the river; but at last there was a big one,
and they hailed her. She sent out her yawl, and we
went aboard, and she was from Cincinnati; and when
they found we only wanted to go four or five mile
they was booming mad, and gave us a cussing, and
said they wouldn't land us. But the king was ca'm.
He says:

"If gentlemen kin afford to pay a dollar a mile
apiece to be took on and put off in a yawl, a steam-
boat kin afford to carry 'em, can't it?"

So they softened down and said it was all right;
and when we got to the village they yawled us ashore.
About two dozen men flocked down when they see the
yawl a-coming, and when the king says:

"Kin any of you gentlemen tell me wher' Mr. Peter
Wilks lives?" they give a glance at one another, and
nodded their heads, as much as to say, "What d' I
tell you?" Then one of them says, kind of soft and
gentle:

"I'm sorry. sir, but the best we can do is to tell
you where he DID live yesterday evening."

Sudden as winking the ornery old cretur went an
to smash, and fell up against the man, and put his
chin on his shoulder, and cried down his back, and
says:

"Alas, alas, our poor brother -- gone, and we never
got to see him; oh, it's too, too hard!"

Then he turns around, blubbering, and makes a lot
of idiotic signs to the duke on his hands, and blamed
if he didn't drop a carpet-bag and bust out a-crying.
If they warn't the beatenest lot, them two frauds, that
ever I struck.

Well, the men gathered around and sympathized
with them, and said all sorts of kind things to them,
and carried their carpet-bags up the hill for them, and
let them lean on them and cry, and told the king all
about his brother's last moments, and the king he told
it all over again on his hands to the duke, and both of
them took on about that dead tanner like they'd lost
the twelve disciples. Well, if ever I struck anything
like it, I'm a nigger. It was enough to make a body
ashamed of the human race.

Mark Twain