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 42


CHAPTER XLII.

THE old man was uptown again before breakfast, but
couldn't get no track of Tom; and both of them
set at the table thinking, and not saying nothing, and
looking mournful, and their coffee getting cold, and
not eating anything. And by and by the old man
says:

"Did I give you the letter?"

"What letter?"

"The one I got yesterday out of the post-office."

"No, you didn't give me no letter."

"Well, I must a forgot it."

So he rummaged his pockets, and then went off some-
wheres where he had laid it down, and fetched it, and
give it to her. She says:

"Why, it's from St. Petersburg -- it's from Sis."

I allowed another walk would do me good; but I
couldn't stir. But before she could break it open she
dropped it and run -- for she see something. And so
did I. It was Tom Sawyer on a mattress; and that old
doctor; and Jim, in HER calico dress, with his hands
tied behind him; and a lot of people. I hid the letter
behind the first thing that come handy, and rushed.
She flung herself at Tom, crying, and says:

"Oh, he's dead, he's dead, I know he's dead!"

And Tom he turned his head a little, and muttered
something or other, which showed he warn't in his
right mind; then she flung up her hands, and says:

"He's alive, thank God! And that's enough!"
and she snatched a kiss of him, and flew for the house
to get the bed ready, and scattering orders right and left
at the niggers and everybody else, as fast as her tongue
could go, every jump of the way.

I followed the men to see what they was going to do
with Jim; and the old doctor and Uncle Silas followed
after Tom into the house. The men was very huffy,
and some of them wanted to hang Jim for an example
to all the other niggers around there, so they wouldn't
be trying to run away like Jim done, and making such
a raft of trouble, and keeping a whole family scared
most to death for days and nights. But the others said,
don't do it, it wouldn't answer at all; he ain't our
nigger, and his owner would turn up and make us pay
for him, sure. So that cooled them down a little, be-
cause the people that's always the most anxious for to
hang a nigger that hain't done just right is always the
very ones that ain't the most anxious to pay for him
when they've got their satisfaction out of him.

They cussed Jim considerble, though, and give him
a cuff or two side the head once in a while, but Jim
never said nothing, and he never let on to know me,
and they took him to the same cabin, and put his own
clothes on him, and chained him again, and not to no
bed-leg this time, but to a big staple drove into the bot-
tom log, and chained his hands, too, and both legs, and
said he warn't to have nothing but bread and water to
eat after this till his owner come, or he was sold at auc-
tion because he didn't come in a certain length of time,
and filled up our hole, and said a couple of farmers
with guns must stand watch around about the cabin
every night, and a bulldog tied to the door in the day-
time; and about this time they was through with the
job and was tapering off with a kind of generl good-bye
cussing, and then the old doctor comes and takes a
look, and says:

"Don't be no rougher on him than you're obleeged
to, because he ain't a bad nigger. When I got to
where I found the boy I see I couldn't cut the bullet
out without some help, and he warn't in no condition
for me to leave to go and get help; and he got a little
worse and a little worse, and after a long time he went
out of his head, and wouldn't let me come a-nigh him
any more, and said if I chalked his raft he'd kill me,
and no end of wild foolishness like that, and I see I
couldn't do anything at all with him; so I says, I got
to have HELP somehow; and the minute I says it out
crawls this nigger from somewheres and says he'll help,
and he done it, too, and done it very well. Of course
I judged he must be a runaway nigger, and there I WAS!
and there I had to stick right straight along all the rest
of the day and all night. It was a fix, I tell you! I
had a couple of patients with the chills, and of course
I'd of liked to run up to town and see them, but I
dasn't, because the nigger might get away, and then I'd
be to blame; and yet never a skiff come close enough
for me to hail. So there I had to stick plumb until
daylight this morning; and I never see a nigger that
was a better nuss or faithfuller, and yet he was risking
his freedom to do it, and was all tired out, too, and I
see plain enough he'd been worked main hard lately.
I liked the nigger for that; I tell you, gentlemen, a
nigger like that is worth a thousand dollars -- and kind
treatment, too. I had everything I needed, and the
boy was doing as well there as he would a done at
home -- better, maybe, because it was so quiet; but
there I WAS, with both of 'm on my hands, and there
I had to stick till about dawn this morning; then some
men in a skiff come by, and as good luck would have
it the nigger was setting by the pallet with his head
propped on his knees sound asleep; so I motioned
them in quiet, and they slipped up on him and grabbed
him and tied him before he knowed what he was
about, and we never had no trouble. And the boy
being in a kind of a flighty sleep, too, we muffled the
oars and hitched the raft on, and towed her over very
nice and quiet, and the nigger never made the least
row nor said a word from the start. He ain't no bad
nigger, gentlemen; that's what I think about him."

Somebody says:

"Well, it sounds very good, doctor, I'm obleeged to
say."

Then the others softened up a little, too, and I was
mighty thankful to that old doctor for doing Jim that
good turn; and I was glad it was according to my judg-
ment of him, too; because I thought he had a good
heart in him and was a good man the first time I see
him. Then they all agreed that Jim had acted very
well, and was deserving to have some notice took of
it, and reward. So every one of them promised, right
out and hearty, that they wouldn't cuss him no more.

Then they come out and locked him up. I hoped
they was going to say he could have one or two of the
chains took off, because they was rotten heavy, or could
have meat and greens with his bread and water; but
they didn't think of it, and I reckoned it warn't best
for me to mix in, but I judged I'd get the doctor's yarn
to Aunt Sally somehow or other as soon as I'd got
through the breakers that was laying just ahead of me --
explanations, I mean, of how I forgot to mention about
Sid being shot when I was telling how him and me put
in that dratted night paddling around hunting the run-
away nigger.

But I had plenty time. Aunt Sally she stuck to the
sick-room all day and all night, and every time I see
Uncle Silas mooning around I dodged him.

Next morning I heard Tom was a good deal better,
and they said Aunt Sally was gone to get a nap. So
I slips to the sick-room, and if I found him awake I
reckoned we could put up a yarn for the family that
would wash. But he was sleeping, and sleeping very
peaceful, too; and pale, not fire-faced the way he was
when he come. So I set down and laid for him to
wake. In about half an hour Aunt Sally comes gliding
in, and there I was, up a stump again! She motioned
me to be still, and set down by me, and begun to
whisper, and said we could all be joyful now, because
all the symptoms was first-rate, and he'd been sleeping
like that for ever so long, and looking better and peace-
fuller all the time, and ten to one he'd wake up in his
right mind.

So we set there watching, and by and by he stirs a
bit, and opened his eyes very natural, and takes a look,
and says:

"Hello! -- why, I'm at HOME! How's that?
Where's the raft?"

"It's all right," I says.

"And JIM?"

"The same," I says, but couldn't say it pretty
brash. But he never noticed, but says:

"Good! Splendid! NOW we're all right and safe!
Did you tell Aunty?"

I was going to say yes; but she chipped in and says:
"About what, Sid?"

"Why, about the way the whole thing was done."

"What whole thing?"

"Why, THE whole thing. There ain't but one; how
we set the runaway nigger free -- me and Tom."

"Good land! Set the run -- What IS the child
talking about! Dear, dear, out of his head again!"

"NO, I ain't out of my HEAD; I know all what I'm
talking about. We DID set him free -- me and Tom.
We laid out to do it, and we DONE it. And we done
it elegant, too." He'd got a start, and she never
checked him up, just set and stared and stared, and let
him clip along, and I see it warn't no use for ME to put
in. "Why, Aunty, it cost us a power of work --
weeks of it -- hours and hours, every night, whilst you
was all asleep. And we had to steal candles, and the
sheet, and the shirt, and your dress, and spoons, and
tin plates, and case-knives, and the warming-pan, and
the grindstone, and flour, and just no end of things, and
you can't think what work it was to make the saws, and
pens, and inscriptions, and one thing or another, and
you can't think HALF the fun it was. And we had to
make up the pictures of coffins and things, and non-
namous letters from the robbers, and get up and down
the lightning-rod, and dig the hole into the cabin, and
made the rope ladder and send it in cooked up in a pie,
and send in spoons and things to work with in your
apron pocket --"

"Mercy sakes!"

"-- and load up the cabin with rats and snakes and
so on, for company for Jim; and then you kept Tom
here so long with the butter in his hat that you come
near spiling the whole business, because the men come
before we was out of the cabin, and we had to rush,
and they heard us and let drive at us, and I got my
share, and we dodged out of the path and let them go
by, and when the dogs come they warn't interested in
us, but went for the most noise, and we got our canoe,
and made for the raft, and was all safe, and Jim was
a free man, and we done it all by ourselves, and WASN'T
it bully, Aunty!"

"Well, I never heard the likes of it in all my born
days! So it was YOU, you little rapscallions, that's been
making all this trouble, and turned everybody's wits
clean inside out and scared us all most to death. I've as
good a notion as ever I had in my life to take it out o'
you this very minute. To think, here I've been, night
after night, a -- YOU just get well once, you young
scamp, and I lay I'll tan the Old Harry out o' both o'
ye!"

But Tom, he WAS so proud and joyful, he just COULDN'T
hold in, and his tongue just WENT it -- she a-chipping
in, and spitting fire all along, and both of them going
it at once, like a cat convention; and she says:

"WELL, you get all the enjoyment you can out of it
NOW, for mind I tell you if I catch you meddling with
him again --"

"Meddling with WHO?" Tom says, dropping his
smile and looking surprised.

"With WHO? Why, the runaway nigger, of course.
Who'd you reckon?"

Tom looks at me very grave, and says:

"Tom, didn't you just tell me he was all right?
Hasn't he got away?"

"HIM?" says Aunt Sally; "the runaway nigger?
'Deed he hasn't. They've got him back, safe and
sound, and he's in that cabin again, on bread and
water, and loaded down with chains, till he's claimed
or sold!"

Tom rose square up in bed, with his eye hot, and
his nostrils opening and shutting like gills, and sings
out to me:

"They hain't no RIGHT to shut him up! SHOVE! --
and don't you lose a minute. Turn him loose! he
ain't no slave; he's as free as any cretur that walks
this earth!"

"What DOES the child mean?"

"I mean every word I SAY, Aunt Sally, and if some-
body don't go, I'LL go. I've knowed him all his life,
and so has Tom, there. Old Miss Watson died two
months ago, and she was ashamed she ever was going
to sell him down the river, and SAID so; and she set
him free in her will."

"Then what on earth did YOU want to set him free
for, seeing he was already free?"

"Well, that IS a question, I must say; and just like
women! Why, I wanted the ADVENTURE of it; and I'd
a waded neck-deep in blood to -- goodness alive, AUNT
POLLY!"

If she warn't standing right there, just inside the
door, looking as sweet and contented as an angel half
full of pie, I wish I may never!

Aunt Sally jumped for her, and most hugged the
head off of her, and cried over her, and I found a
good enough place for me under the bed, for it was
getting pretty sultry for us, seemed to me. And I
peeped out, and in a little while Tom's Aunt Polly
shook herself loose and stood there looking across at
Tom over her spectacles -- kind of grinding him into
the earth, you know. And then she says:

"Yes, you BETTER turn y'r head away -- I would if I
was you, Tom."

"Oh, deary me!" says Aunt Sally; "IS he changed
so? Why, that ain't TOM, it's Sid; Tom's -- Tom's
-- why, where is Tom? He was here a minute ago."

"You mean where's Huck FINN -- that's what you
mean! I reckon I hain't raised such a scamp as my
Tom all these years not to know him when I SEE him.
That WOULD be a pretty howdy-do. Come out from
under that bed, Huck Finn."

So I done it. But not feeling brash.

Aunt Sally she was one of the mixed-upest-looking
persons I ever see -- except one, and that was Uncle
Silas, when he come in and they told it all to him. It
kind of made him drunk, as you may say, and he
didn't know nothing at all the rest of the day, and
preached a prayer-meeting sermon that night that gave
him a rattling ruputation, because the oldest man in
the world couldn't a understood it. So Tom's Aunt
Polly, she told all about who I was, and what; and I
had to up and tell how I was in such a tight place that
when Mrs. Phelps took me for Tom Sawyer -- she
chipped in and says, "Oh, go on and call me Aunt
Sally, I'm used to it now, and 'tain't no need to
change" -- that when Aunt Sally took me for Tom
Sawyer I had to stand it -- there warn't no other way,
and I knowed he wouldn't mind, because it would be
nuts for him, being a mystery, and he'd make an ad-
venture out of it, and be perfectly satisfied. And so
it turned out, and he let on to be Sid, and made things
as soft as he could for me.

And his Aunt Polly she said Tom was right about
old Miss Watson setting Jim free in her will; and so,
sure enough, Tom Sawyer had gone and took all that
trouble and bother to set a free nigger free! and I
couldn't ever understand before, until that minute and
that talk, how he COULD help a body set a nigger free
with his bringing-up.

Well, Aunt Polly she said that when Aunt Sally
wrote to her that Tom and SID had come all right and
safe, she says to herself:

"Look at that, now! I might have expected it,
letting him go off that way without anybody to watch
him. So now I got to go and trapse all the way down
the river, eleven hundred mile, and find out what that
creetur's up to THIS time, as long as I couldn't seem to
get any answer out of you about it."

"Why, I never heard nothing from you," says
Aunt Sally.

"Well, I wonder! Why, I wrote you twice to ask
you what you could mean by Sid being here."

"Well, I never got 'em, Sis."

Aunt Polly she turns around slow and severe, and
says:

"You, Tom!"

"Well -- WHAT?" he says, kind of pettish.

"Don t you what ME, you impudent thing -- hand
out them letters."

"What letters?"

"THEM letters. I be bound, if I have to take a-
holt of you I'll --"

"They're in the trunk. There, now. And they're
just the same as they was when I got them out of the
office. I hain't looked into them, I hain't touched
them. But I knowed they'd make trouble, and I
thought if you warn't in no hurry, I'd --"

"Well, you DO need skinning, there ain't no mistake
about it. And I wrote another one to tell you I was
coming; and I s'pose he --"

"No, it come yesterday; I hain't read it yet, but
IT'S all right, I've got that one."

I wanted to offer to bet two dollars she hadn't, but I
reckoned maybe it was just as safe to not to. So I
never said nothing.

Mark Twain