Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 39


CHAPTER XXXIX.

IN the morning we went up to the village and bought
a wire rat-trap and fetched it down, and unstopped
the best rat-hole, and in about an hour we had fifteen
of the bulliest kind of ones; and then we took it and
put it in a safe place under Aunt Sally's bed. But
while we was gone for spiders little Thomas Franklin
Benjamin Jefferson Elexander Phelps found it there,
and opened the door of it to see if the rats would come
out, and they did; and Aunt Sally she come in, and
when we got back she was a-standing on top of the bed
raising Cain, and the rats was doing what they could to
keep off the dull times for her. So she took and
dusted us both with the hickry, and we was as much
as two hours catching another fifteen or sixteen, drat
that meddlesome cub, and they warn't the likeliest,
nuther, because the first haul was the pick of the flock.
I never see a likelier lot of rats than what that first
haul was.

We got a splendid stock of sorted spiders, and bugs,
and frogs, and caterpillars, and one thing or another;
and we like to got a hornet's nest, but we didn't. The
family was at home. We didn't give it right up, but
stayed with them as long as we could; because we
allowed we'd tire them out or they'd got to tire us
out, and they done it. Then we got allycumpain and
rubbed on the places, and was pretty near all right
again, but couldn't set down convenient. And so we
went for the snakes, and grabbed a couple of dozen
garters and house-snakes, and put them in a bag, and
put it in our room, and by that time it was supper-
time, and a rattling good honest day's work: and
hungry? -- oh, no, I reckon not! And there warn't a
blessed snake up there when we went back -- we didn't
half tie the sack, and they worked out somehow, and
left. But it didn't matter much, because they was
still on the premises somewheres. So we judged we
could get some of them again. No, there warn't no
real scarcity of snakes about the house for a consider-
able spell. You'd see them dripping from the rafters
and places every now and then; and they generly
landed in your plate, or down the back of your neck,
and most of the time where you didn't want them.
Well, they was handsome and striped, and there warn't
no harm in a million of them; but that never made no
difference to Aunt Sally; she despised snakes, be the
breed what they might, and she couldn't stand them
no way you could fix it; and every time one of them
flopped down on her, it didn't make no difference what
she was doing, she would just lay that work down and
light out. I never see such a woman. And you could
hear her whoop to Jericho. You couldn't get her to
take a-holt of one of them with the tongs. And if she
turned over and found one in bed she would scramble
out and lift a howl that you would think the house was
afire. She disturbed the old man so that he said he
could most wish there hadn't ever been no snakes
created. Why, after every last snake had been gone
clear out of the house for as much as a week Aunt
Sally warn't over it yet; she warn't near over it; when
she was setting thinking about something you could
touch her on the back of her neck with a feather and
she would jump right out of her stockings. It was
very curious. But Tom said all women was just so.
He said they was made that way for some reason or
other.

We got a licking every time one of our snakes come
in her way, and she allowed these lickings warn't noth-
ing to what she would do if we ever loaded up the
place again with them. I didn't mind the lickings,
because they didn't amount to nothing; but I minded
the trouble we had to lay in another lot. But we got
them laid in, and all the other things; and you never
see a cabin as blithesome as Jim's was when they'd all
swarm out for music and go for him. Jim didn't like
the spiders, and the spiders didn't like Jim; and so
they'd lay for him, and make it mighty warm for him.
And he said that between the rats and the snakes and
the grindstone there warn't no room in bed for him,
skasely; and when there was, a body couldn't sleep, it
was so lively, and it was always lively, he said, because
THEY never all slept at one time, but took turn about,
so when the snakes was asleep the rats was on deck,
and when the rats turned in the snakes come on watch,
so he always had one gang under him, in his way, and
t'other gang having a circus over him, and if he got
up to hunt a new place the spiders would take a chance
at him as he crossed over. He said if he ever got out
this time he wouldn't ever be a prisoner again, not for
a salary.

Well, by the end of three weeks everything was in
pretty good shape. The shirt was sent in early, in a
pie, and every time a rat bit Jim he would get up and
write a little in his journal whilst the ink was fresh; the
pens was made, the inscriptions and so on was all
carved on the grindstone; the bed-leg was sawed in
two, and we had et up the sawdust, and it give us a
most amazing stomach-ache. We reckoned we was all
going to die, but didn't. It was the most undigestible
sawdust I ever see; and Tom said the same. But as I
was saying, we'd got all the work done now, at last;
and we was all pretty much fagged out, too, but mainly
Jim. The old man had wrote a couple of times to the
plantation below Orleans to come and get their run-
away nigger, but hadn't got no answer, because there
warn't no such plantation; so he allowed he would ad-
vertise Jim in the St. Louis and New Orleans papers;
and when he mentioned the St. Louis ones it give me
the cold shivers, and I see we hadn't no time to lose.
So Tom said, now for the nonnamous letters.

"What's them?" I says.

"Warnings to the people that something is up.
Sometimes it's done one way, sometimes another.
But there's always somebody spying around that gives
notice to the governor of the castle. When Louis
XVI. was going to light out of the Tooleries a servant-
girl done it. It's a very good way, and so is the
nonnamous letters. We'll use them both. And it's
usual for the prisoner's mother to change clothes with
him, and she stays in, and he slides out in her clothes.
We'll do that, too."

"But looky here, Tom, what do we want to WARN
anybody for that something's up? Let them find it
out for themselves -- it's their lookout."

"Yes, I know; but you can't depend on them.
It's the way they've acted from the very start -- left
us to do EVERYTHING. They're so confiding and mullet-
headed they don't take notice of nothing at all. So if
we don't GIVE them notice there won't be nobody nor
nothing to interfere with us, and so after all our hard
work and trouble this escape 'll go off perfectly flat;
won't amount to nothing -- won't be nothing TO it."

"Well, as for me, Tom, that's the way I'd like."

"Shucks!" he says, and looked disgusted. So I
says:

"But I ain't going to make no complaint. Any
way that suits you suits me. What you going to do
about the servant-girl?"

"You'll be her. You slide in, in the middle of the
night, and hook that yaller girl's frock."

"Why, Tom, that 'll make trouble next morning;
because, of course, she prob'bly hain't got any but
that one."

"I know; but you don't want it but fifteen minutes,
to carry the nonnamous letter and shove it under the
front door."

"All right, then, I'll do it; but I could carry it just
as handy in my own togs."

"You wouldn't look like a servant-girl THEN, would
you?"

"No, but there won't be nobody to see what I look
like, ANYWAY."

"That ain't got nothing to do with it. The thing
for us to do is just to do our DUTY, and not worry
about whether anybody SEES us do it or not. Hain't
you got no principle at all?"

"All right, I ain't saying nothing; I'm the servant-
girl. Who's Jim's mother?"

"I'm his mother. I'll hook a gown from Aunt
Sally."

"Well, then, you'll have to stay in the cabin when
me and Jim leaves."

"Not much. I'll stuff Jim's clothes full of straw
and lay it on his bed to represent his mother in dis-
guise, and Jim 'll take the nigger woman's gown off of
me and wear it, and we'll all evade together. When a
prisoner of style escapes it's called an evasion. It's
always called so when a king escapes, f'rinstance.
And the same with a king's son; it don't make no differ-
ence whether he's a natural one or an unnatural one."

So Tom he wrote the nonnamous letter, and I
smouched the yaller wench's frock that night, and put
it on, and shoved it under the front door, the way Tom
told me to. It said:

   Beware. Trouble is brewing. Keep a sharp lookout.
                                        UNKNOWN FRIEND.

Next night we stuck a picture, which Tom drawed
in blood, of a skull and crossbones on the front door;
and next night another one of a coffin on the back
door. I never see a family in such a sweat. They
couldn't a been worse scared if the place had a been
full of ghosts laying for them behind everything and
under the beds and shivering through the air. If a
door banged, Aunt Sally she jumped and said
"ouch!" if anything fell, she jumped and said
"ouch!" if you happened to touch her, when she
warn't noticing, she done the same; she couldn't face
noway and be satisfied, because she allowed there was
something behind her every time -- so she was always
a-whirling around sudden, and saying "ouch," and
before she'd got two-thirds around she'd whirl back
again, and say it again; and she was afraid to go to bed,
but she dasn't set up. So the thing was working
very well, Tom said; he said he never see a thing
work more satisfactory. He said it showed it was
done right.

So he said, now for the grand bulge! So the very
next morning at the streak of dawn we got another
letter ready, and was wondering what we better do with
it, because we heard them say at supper they was
going to have a nigger on watch at both doors all
night. Tom he went down the lightning-rod to spy
around; and the nigger at the back door was asleep,
and he stuck it in the back of his neck and come back.
This letter said:


   Don't betray me, I wish to be your friend. There
   is a desprate gang of cut-throats from over in the
   Indian Territory going to steal your runaway
   nigger to-night, and they have been trying to scare
   you so as you will stay in the house and not bother
   them. I am one of the gang, but have got religgion
   and wish to quit it and lead an honest life again,
   and will betray the helish design. They will sneak
   down from northards, along the fence, at midnight
   exact, with a false key, and go in the nigger's
   cabin to get him. I am to be off a piece and blow
   a tin horn if I see any danger; but stead of that I
   will BA like a sheep soon as they get in and not
   blow at all; then whilst they are getting his chains
   loose, you slip there and lock them in, and can
   kill them at your leasure. Don't do anything but
   just the way I am telling you; if you do they will
   suspicion something and raise whoop-jamboreehoo. I
   do not wish any reward but to know I have done the
   right thing.
                                   UNKNOWN FRIEND.


Mark Twain