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 5


I HAD shut the door to. Then I turned around.
and there he was. I used to be scared of him all
the time, he tanned me so much. I reckoned I was
scared now, too; but in a minute I see I was mistaken
-- that is, after the first jolt, as you may say, when
my breath sort of hitched, he being so unexpected;
but right away after I see I warn't scared of him worth
bothring about.

He was most fifty, and he looked it. His hair was
long and tangled and greasy, and hung down, and you
could see his eyes shining through like he was behind
vines. It was all black, no gray; so was his long,
mixed-up whiskers. There warn't no color in his face,
where his face showed; it was white; not like another
man's white, but a white to make a body sick, a white
to make a body's flesh crawl -- a tree-toad white, a
fish-belly white. As for his clothes -- just rags, that
was all. He had one ankle resting on t'other knee;
the boot on that foot was busted, and two of his toes
stuck through, and he worked them now and then.
His hat was laying on the floor -- an old black slouch
with the top caved in, like a lid.

I stood a-looking at him; he set there a-looking at
me, with his chair tilted back a little. I set the candle
down. I noticed the window was up; so he had clumb
in by the shed. He kept a-looking me all over. By
and by he says:

"Starchy clothes -- very. You think you're a good
deal of a big-bug, DON'T you?"

"Maybe I am, maybe I ain't," I says.

"Don't you give me none o' your lip," says he.
"You've put on considerable many frills since I been
away. I'll take you down a peg before I get done
with you. You're educated, too, they say -- can read
and write. You think you're better'n your father,
now, don't you, because he can't? I'LL take it out of
you. Who told you you might meddle with such
hifalut'n foolishness, hey? -- who told you you could?"

"The widow. She told me."

"The widow, hey? -- and who told the widow she
could put in her shovel about a thing that ain't none of
her business?"

"Nobody never told her."

"Well, I'll learn her how to meddle. And looky
here -- you drop that school, you hear? I'll learn
people to bring up a boy to put on airs over his own
father and let on to be better'n what HE is. You lemme
catch you fooling around that school again, you hear?
Your mother couldn't read, and she couldn't write,
nuther, before she died. None of the family couldn't
before THEY died. I can't; and here you're a-swelling
yourself up like this. I ain't the man to stand it --
you hear? Say, lemme hear you read."

I took up a book and begun something about Gen-
eral Washington and the wars. When I'd read about
a half a minute, he fetched the book a whack with his
hand and knocked it across the house. He says:

"It's so. You can do it. I had my doubts when
you told me. Now looky here; you stop that putting
on frills. I won't have it. I'll lay for you, my
smarty; and if I catch you about that school I'll tan
you good. First you know you'll get religion, too. I
never see such a son.

He took up a little blue and yaller picture of some
cows and a boy, and says:

"What's this?"

"It's something they give me for learning my
lessons good."

He tore it up, and says:

"I'll give you something better -- I'll give you a

He set there a-mumbling and a-growling a minute,
and then he says:

"AIN'T you a sweet-scented dandy, though? A
bed; and bedclothes; and a look'n'-glass; and a piece
of carpet on the floor -- and your own father got to
sleep with the hogs in the tanyard. I never see such a
son. I bet I'll take some o' these frills out o' you
before I'm done with you. Why, there ain't no end to
your airs -- they say you're rich. Hey? -- how's that?"

"They lie -- that's how."

"Looky here -- mind how you talk to me; I'm a-
standing about all I can stand now -- so don't gimme
no sass. I've been in town two days, and I hain't
heard nothing but about you bein' rich. I heard
about it away down the river, too. That's why I
come. You git me that money to-morrow -- I want

"I hain't got no money."

"It's a lie. Judge Thatcher's got it. You git it.
I want it."

"I hain't got no money, I tell you. You ask Judge
Thatcher; he'll tell you the same."

"All right. I'll ask him; and I'll make him pungle,
too, or I'll know the reason why. Say, how much
you got in your pocket? I want it."

"I hain't got only a dollar, and I want that to --"

"It don't make no difference what you want it for
-- you just shell it out."

He took it and bit it to see if it was good, and then
he said he was going down town to get some whisky;
said he hadn't had a drink all day. When he had got
out on the shed he put his head in again, and cussed
me for putting on frills and trying to be better than
him; and when I reckoned he was gone he come back
and put his head in again, and told me to mind about
that school, because he was going to lay for me and
lick me if I didn't drop that.

Next day he was drunk, and he went to Judge
Thatcher's and bullyragged him, and tried to make
him give up the money; but he couldn't, and then he
swore he'd make the law force him.

The judge and the widow went to law to get the
court to take me away from him and let one of them
be my guardian; but it was a new judge that had just
come, and he didn't know the old man; so he said
courts mustn't interfere and separate families if they
could help it; said he'd druther not take a child away
from its father. So Judge Thatcher and the widow
had to quit on the business.

That pleased the old man till he couldn't rest. He
said he'd cowhide me till I was black and blue if I
didn't raise some money for him. I borrowed three
dollars from Judge Thatcher, and pap took it and got
drunk, and went a-blowing around and cussing and
whooping and carrying on; and he kept it up all over
town, with a tin pan, till most midnight; then they
jailed him, and next day they had him before court,
and jailed him again for a week. But he said HE was
satisfied; said he was boss of his son, and he'd make
it warm for HIM.

When he got out the new judge said he was a-going
to make a man of him. So he took him to his
own house, and dressed him up clean and nice, and
had him to breakfast and dinner and supper with the
family, and was just old pie to him, so to speak. And
after supper he talked to him about temperance and
such things till the old man cried, and said he'd been a
fool, and fooled away his life; but now he was a-going
to turn over a new leaf and be a man nobody wouldn't
be ashamed of, and he hoped the judge would help
him and not look down on him. The judge said he
could hug him for them words; so he cried, and his
wife she cried again; pap said he'd been a man that had
always been misunderstood before, and the judge said
he believed it. The old man said that what a man
wanted that was down was sympathy, and the judge
said it was so; so they cried again. And when it was
bedtime the old man rose up and held out his hand,
and says:

"Look at it, gentlemen and ladies all; take a-hold
of it; shake it. There's a hand that was the hand of
a hog; but it ain't so no more; it's the hand of a man
that's started in on a new life, and'll die before he'll
go back. You mark them words -- don't forget I said
them. It's a clean hand now; shake it -- don't be

So they shook it, one after the other, all around, and
cried. The judge's wife she kissed it. Then the old
man he signed a pledge -- made his mark. The judge
said it was the holiest time on record, or something
like that. Then they tucked the old man into a beauti-
ful room, which was the spare room, and in the night
some time he got powerful thirsty and clumb out on to
the porch-roof and slid down a stanchion and traded his
new coat for a jug of forty-rod, and clumb back again
and had a good old time; and towards daylight he
crawled out again, drunk as a fiddler, and rolled off
the porch and broke his left arm in two places, and
was most froze to death when somebody found him
after sun-up. And when they come to look at that
spare room they had to take soundings before they
could navigate it.

The judge he felt kind of sore. He said he reckoned
a body could reform the old man with a shotgun,
maybe, but he didn't know no other way.

Mark Twain