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Chapter 27


CHAPTER XXVII.

I CREPT to their doors and listened; they was snor-
ing. So I tiptoed along, and got down stairs all
right. There warn't a sound anywheres. I peeped
through a crack of the dining-room door, and see the
men that was watching the corpse all sound asleep on
their chairs. The door was open into the parlor, where
the corpse was laying, and there was a candle in both
rooms. I passed along, and the parlor door was open;
but I see there warn't nobody in there but the re-
mainders of Peter; so I shoved on by; but the front
door was locked, and the key wasn't there. Just then
I heard somebody coming down the stairs, back behind
me. I run in the parlor and took a swift look around,
and the only place I see to hide the bag was in the
coffin. The lid was shoved along about a foot, show-
ing the dead man's face down in there, with a wet
cloth over it, and his shroud on. I tucked the money-
bag in under the lid, just down beyond where his
hands was crossed, which made me creep, they was so
cold, and then I run back across the room and in
behind the door.

The person coming was Mary Jane. She went to
the coffin, very soft, and kneeled down and looked in;
then she put up her handkerchief, and I see she begun
to cry, though I couldn't hear her, and her back was
to me. I slid out, and as I passed the dining-room I
thought I'd make sure them watchers hadn't seen me;
so I looked through the crack, and everything was all
right. They hadn't stirred.

I slipped up to bed, feeling ruther blue, on accounts
of the thing playing out that way after I had took so
much trouble and run so much resk about it. Says I,
if it could stay where it is, all right; because when we
get down the river a hundred mile or two I could write
back to Mary Jane, and she could dig him up again
and get it; but that ain't the thing that's going to
happen; the thing that's going to happen is, the
money 'll be found when they come to screw on the
lid. Then the king 'll get it again, and it 'll be a long
day before he gives anybody another chance to smouch
it from him. Of course I WANTED to slide down and
get it out of there, but I dasn't try it. Every minute
it was getting earlier now, and pretty soon some of
them watchers would begin to stir, and I might get
catched -- catched with six thousand dollars in my
hands that nobody hadn't hired me to take care of. I
don't wish to be mixed up in no such business as that,
I says to myself.

When I got down stairs in the morning the parlor
was shut up, and the watchers was gone. There warn't
nobody around but the family and the widow Bartley
and our tribe. I watched their faces to see if anything
had been happening, but I couldn't tell.

Towards the middle of the day the undertaker come
with his man, and they set the coffin in the middle of
the room on a couple of chairs, and then set all our
chairs in rows, and borrowed more from the neighbors
till the hall and the parlor and the dining-room was
full. I see the coffin lid was the way it was before,
but I dasn't go to look in under it, with folks around.

Then the people begun to flock in, and the beats
and the girls took seats in the front row at the head of
the coffin, and for a half an hour the people filed
around slow, in single rank, and looked down at the
dead man's face a minute, and some dropped in a tear,
and it was all very still and solemn, only the girls and
the beats holding handkerchiefs to their eyes and keep-
ing their heads bent, and sobbing a little. There
warn't no other sound but the scraping of the feet on
the floor and blowing noses -- because people always
blows them more at a funeral than they do at other
places except church.

When the place was packed full the undertaker he
slid around in his black gloves with his softy soother-
ing ways, putting on the last touches, and getting
people and things all ship-shape and comfortable, and
making no more sound than a cat. He never spoke;
he moved people around, he squeezed in late ones, he
opened up passageways, and done it with nods, and
signs with his hands. Then he took his place over
against the wall. He was the softest, glidingest,
stealthiest man I ever see; and there warn't no more
smile to him than there is to a ham.

They had borrowed a melodeum -- a sick one; and
when everything was ready a young woman set down
and worked it, and it was pretty skreeky and colicky,
and everybody joined in and sung, and Peter was the
only one that had a good thing, according to my
notion. Then the Reverend Hobson opened up, slow
and solemn, and begun to talk; and straight off the
most outrageous row busted out in the cellar a body
ever heard; it was only one dog, but he made a most
powerful racket, and he kept it up right along; the
parson he had to stand there, over the coffin, and wait
-- you couldn't hear yourself think. It was right
down awkward, and nobody didn't seem to know what
to do. But pretty soon they see that long-legged
undertaker make a sign to the preacher as much as to
say, "Don't you worry -- just depend on me." Then
he stooped down and begun to glide along the wall,
just his shoulders showing over the people's heads.
So he glided along, and the powwow and racket get-
ting more and more outrageous all the time; and at
last, when he had gone around two sides of the room,
he disappears down cellar. Then in about two seconds
we heard a whack, and the dog he finished up with a
most amazing howl or two, and then everything was
dead still, and the parson begun his solemn talk where
he left off. In a minute or two here comes this under-
taker's back and shoulders gliding along the wall
again; and so he glided and glided around three sides
of the room, and then rose up, and shaded his mouth
with his hands, and stretched his neck out towards the
preacher, over the people's heads, and says, in a kind
of a coarse whisper, "HE HAD A RAT!" Then he
drooped down and glided along the wall again to his
place. You could see it was a great satisfaction to the
people, because naturally they wanted to know. A
little thing like that don't cost nothing, and it's just the
little things that makes a man to be looked up to and
liked. There warn't no more popular man in town
than what that undertaker was.

Well, the funeral sermon was very good, but pison
long and tiresome; and then the king he shoved in and
got off some of his usual rubbage, and at last the job
was through, and the undertaker begun to sneak up on
the coffin with his screw-driver. I was in a sweat
then, and watched him pretty keen. But he never
meddled at all; just slid the lid along as soft as mush,
and screwed it down tight and fast. So there I was!
I didn't know whether the money was in there or not.
So, says I, s'pose somebody has hogged that bag on
the sly? -- now how do I know whether to write to
Mary Jane or not? S'pose she dug him up and didn't
find nothing, what would she think of me? Blame it,
I says, I might get hunted up and jailed; I'd better
lay low and keep dark, and not write at all; the thing's
awful mixed now; trying to better it, I've worsened it
a hundred times, and I wish to goodness I'd just let it
alone, dad fetch the whole business!

They buried him, and we come back home, and I
went to watching faces again -- I couldn't help it, and
I couldn't rest easy. But nothing come of it; the
faces didn't tell me nothing.                                

The king he visited around in the evening, and
sweetened everybody up, and made himself ever so
friendly; and he give out the idea that his congrega-
tion over in England would be in a sweat about him,
so he must hurry and settle up the estate right away
and leave for home. He was very sorry he was so
pushed, and so was everybody; they wished he could
stay longer, but they said they could see it couldn't be
done. And he said of course him and William would
take the girls home with them; and that pleased every-
body too, because then the girls would be well fixed and
amongst their own relations; and it pleased the girls,
too -- tickled them so they clean forgot they ever had
a trouble in the world; and told him to sell out as
quick as he wanted to, they would be ready. Them
poor things was that glad and happy it made my heart
ache to see them getting fooled and lied to so, but I
didn't see no safe way for me to chip in and change
the general tune.

Well, blamed if the king didn't bill the house and
the niggers and all the property for auction straight
off -- sale two days after the funeral; but anybody
could buy private beforehand if they wanted to.

So the next day after the funeral, along about noon-
time, the girls' joy got the first jolt. A couple of
nigger traders come along, and the king sold them the
niggers reasonable, for three-day drafts as they called
it, and away they went, the two sons up the river to
Memphis, and their mother down the river to Orleans.
I thought them poor girls and them niggers would
break their hearts for grief; they cried around each
other, and took on so it most made me down sick to
see it. The girls said they hadn't ever dreamed of
seeing the family separated or sold away from the
town. I can't ever get it out of my memory, the
sight of them poor miserable girls and niggers hanging
around each other's necks and crying; and I reckon I
couldn't a stood it all, but would a had to bust out
and tell on our gang if I hadn't knowed the sale warn't
no account and the niggers would be back home in a
week or two.

The thing made a big stir in the town, too, and a
good many come out flatfooted and said it was scandal-
ous to separate the mother and the children that way.
It injured the frauds some; but the old fool he bulled
right along, spite of all the duke could say or do, and
I tell you the duke was powerful uneasy.

Next day was auction day. About broad day in the
morning the king and the duke come up in the garret
and woke me up, and I see by their look that there
was trouble. The king says:

"Was you in my room night before last?"

"No, your majesty" -- which was the way I always
called him when nobody but our gang warn't around.

"Was you in there yisterday er last night?"

"No, your majesty."

"Honor bright, now -- no lies."

"Honor bright, your majesty, I'm telling you the
truth. I hain't been a-near your room since Miss Mary
Jane took you and the duke and showed it to you."

The duke says:

"Have you seen anybody else go in there?"

"No, your grace, not as I remember, I believe."

"Stop and think."

I studied awhile and see my chance; then I says:

"Well, I see the niggers go in there several times."

Both of them gave a little jump, and looked like
they hadn't ever expected it, and then like they HAD.
Then the duke says:

"What, all of them?"

"No -- leastways, not all at once -- that is, I don't
think I ever see them all come OUT at once but just one
time."

"Hello! When was that?"

"It was the day we had the funeral. In the morn-
ing. It warn't early, because I overslept. I was just
starting down the ladder, and I see them."

"Well, go on, GO on! What did they do? How'd
they act?"

"They didn't do nothing. And they didn't act
anyway much, as fur as I see. They tiptoed away;
so I seen, easy enough, that they'd shoved in there to
do up your majesty's room, or something, s'posing
you was up; and found you WARN'T up, and so they
was hoping to slide out of the way of trouble without
waking you up, if they hadn't already waked you up."

"Great guns, THIS is a go!" says the king; and
both of them looked pretty sick and tolerable silly.
They stood there a-thinking and scratching their heads
a minute, and the duke he bust into a kind of a little
raspy chuckle, and says:

"It does beat all how neat the niggers played their
hand. They let on to be SORRY they was going out of
this region! And I believed they WAS sorry, and so
did you, and so did everybody. Don't ever tell ME
any more that a nigger ain't got any histrionic talent.
Why, the way they played that thing it would fool
ANYBODY. In my opinion, there's a fortune in 'em. If
I had capital and a theater, I wouldn't want a better
lay-out than that -- and here we've gone and sold 'em
for a song. Yes, and ain't privileged to sing the song
yet. Say, where IS that song -- that draft?"

"In the bank for to be collected. Where WOULD it
be?"

"Well, THAT'S all right then, thank goodness."

Says I, kind of timid-like:

"Is something gone wrong?"

The king whirls on me and rips out:

"None o' your business! You keep your head
shet, and mind y'r own affairs -- if you got any.
Long as you're in this town don't you forgit THAT --
you hear?" Then he says to the duke, "We got to
jest swaller it and say noth'n': mum's the word for US."

As they was starting down the ladder the duke he
chuckles again, and says:

"Quick sales AND small profits! It's a good busi-
ness -- yes."

The king snarls around on him and says:

"I was trying to do for the best in sellin' 'em out
so quick. If the profits has turned out to be none,
lackin' considable, and none to carry, is it my fault
any more'n it's yourn?"

"Well, THEY'D be in this house yet and we WOULDN'T
if I could a got my advice listened to."

The king sassed back as much as was safe for him,
and then swapped around and lit into ME again. He
give me down the banks for not coming and TELLING
him I see the niggers come out of his room acting that
way -- said any fool would a KNOWED something was
up. And then waltzed in and cussed HIMSELF awhile,
and said it all come of him not laying late and taking
his natural rest that morning, and he'd be blamed if he'd
ever do it again. So they went off a-jawing; and I
felt dreadful glad I'd worked it all off on to the niggers,
and yet hadn't done the niggers no harm by it.

Mark Twain