Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature: An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891. Vols. IXXI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 18611889
By Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens) (18351910)
[Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. By Mark Twain. 1885.]
COL. GRANGERFORD was a gentleman, you see. He was a gentleman all over; and so was his family. He was well born, as the saying is, and thats worth as much in a man as it is in a horse, so the Widow Douglass said, and nobody ever denied that she was of the first aristocracy in our town; and pap he always said it, too, though he warnt no more quality than a mudcat, himself. Col. Grangerford was very tall and very slim, and had a darkish-paly complexion, not a sign of red in it anywheres; he was clean-shaved every morning, all over his thin face, and he had the thinnest kind of lips, and the thinnest kind of nostrils, and a high nose, and heavy eyebrows, and the blackest kind of eyes, sunk so deep that they seemed like they was looking out of caverns at you, as you may say. His forehead was high, and his hair was black and straight, and hung to his shoulders. His hands was long and thin, and every day of his life he put on a clean shirt and a full suit from head to foot made out of linen so white it hurt your eyes to look at it; and on Sundays he wore a blue tail-coat with brass buttons on it. He carried a mahogany cane with a silver head to it. There warnt no frivolishness about him, not a bit, and he warnt ever loud. He was as kind as he could beyou could feel that, you know, and so you had confidence. Sometimes he smiled, and it was good to see; but when he straightened himself up like a liberty-pole, and the lightning begun to flicker out from under his eyebrows you wanted to climb a tree first, and find out what the matter was afterwards. He didnt ever have to tell anybody to mind their mannerseverybody was always good mannered where he was. Everybody loved to have him around, too; he was sunshine most alwaysI mean he made it seem like good weather. When he turned into a cloud-bank it was awful dark for a half a minute, and that was enough; there wouldnt nothing go wrong again for a week.
When him and the old lady come down in the morning, all the family got up out of their chairs and give them good-day, and didnt set down again till they had set down. Then Tom and Bob went to the sideboard where the decanters was, and mixed a glass of bitters and handed it to him, and he held it in his hand and waited till Toms and Bobs was mixed, and then they bowed and said: Our duty to you, sir, and madam; and they bowed the least bit in the world and said: Thank you; and so they drank, all three, and Bob and Tom poured a spoonful of water on the sugar and the mite of whiskey or apple brandy in the bottom of their tumblers, and give it to me and Buck, and we drank to the old people too.
Bob was the oldest, and Tom next. Tall, beautiful men with very broad shoulders and brown faces, and long black hair and black eyes. They dressed in white linen from head to foot, like the old gentleman, and wore broad Panama hats.
Then there was Miss Charlotte, she was twenty-five, and tall and proud and grand, but as good as she could be, when she warnt stirred up; but when she was, she had a look that would make you wilt in your tracks, like her father. She was beautiful.
The old gentleman owned a lot of farms, and over a hundred niggers. Sometimes a stack of people would come there, horseback, from ten or fifteen miles around, and stay five or six days, and have such junketings round about and on the river, and dances and picnics in the woods, day-times, and balls at the house, nights. These people was mostly kinfolks of the family. The men brought their guns with them. It was a handsome lot of quality, I tell you.
There was another clan of aristocracy around therefive or six familiesmostly of the name of Shepherdson. They was as high-toned, and well born, and rich and grand, as the tribe of Grangerfords. The Shepherdsons and the Grangerfords used the same steamboat landing, which was about two mile above our house; so sometimes when I went up there with a lot of our folks I used to see a lot of the Shepherdsons there, on their fine horses.
We done it, and then peeped down the woods through the leaves. Pretty soon a splendid young man came galloping down the road, setting his horse easy and looking like a soldier. He had his gun across his pommel. I had seen him before. It was young Harney Shepherdson. I heard Bucks gun go off at my ear, and Harneys hat tumbled off from his head. He grabbed his gun and rode straight to the place where we was hid. But we didnt wait. We started through the woods on a run. The woods warnt thick, so I looked over my shoulder, to dodge the bullet, and twice I seen Harney cover Buck with his gun; and then he rode away the way he cometo get his hat, I reckon, but I couldnt see. We never stopped running till we got home. The old gentlemans eyes blazed a minutetwas pleasure, mainly, I judgedthen his face sort of smoothed down, and he says, kind of gentle:
Miss Charlotte she held her head up like a queen while Buck was telling his tale, and her nostrils spread and her eyes snapped. The two young men looked dark, but never said nothing. Miss Sophia she turned pale, but the color came back when she found the man warnt hurt.
Well, says Buck, a feud is this way. A man has a quarrel with another man, and kills him; then that other mans brother kills him; then the other brothers, on both sides, goes for one another; then the cousins chip inand by-and-by everybodys killed off, and there aint no more feud. But its kind of slow, and takes a long time.
Well, I should reckon! it started thirty year ago, or somers along there. There was trouble bout something and then a lawsuit to settle it; and the suit went agin one of the men, and so he up and shot the man that won the suitwhich he would naturally do, of course. Anybody would.
Yesright smart chance of funerals. But they dont always kill. Pas got a few buckshot in him; but he dont mind it cuz he dont weigh much anyway. Bobs been carved up some with a bowie, and Toms been hurt once or twice.
Yes, we got one and they got one. Bout three months ago, my cousin Bud, fourteen year old, was riding through the woods, on tother side of the river, and didnt have no weapon with him, which was blame foolishness, and in a lonesome place he hears a horse a-coming behind him, and sees old Baldy Shepherdson a-linkin after him with his gun in his hand and his white hair a-flying in the wind; and stead of jumping off and taking to the brush, Bud lowed he could outrun him; so they had it, nip and tuck, for five mile or more, the old man a-gaining all the time; so at last Bud seen it warnt any use, so he stopped and faced around so as to have the bullet holes in front, you know, and the old man he rode up and shot him down. But he didnt git much chance to enjoy his luck, for inside of a week our folks laid him out.
I reckon he warnt a coward. Not by a blame sight. There aint a coward amongst them Shepherdsonsnot a one. And there aint no cowards amongst the Grangerfords, either. Why, that old man kep up his end in a fight one day, for a half an hour, against three Grangerfords, and come out winner. They was all a-horseback; he lit off of his horse and got behind a little wood-pile, and kep his horse before him to stop the bullets; but the Grangerfords staid on their horses and capered around the old man, and peppered away at him, and he peppered away at them. Him and his horse both went home pretty leaky and crippled, but the Grangerfords had to be fetched homeand one of em was dead and another died the next day. No, sir, if a bodys out hunting for cowards, he dont want to fool away any time amongst them Shepherdsons, becuz they dont breed any of that kind.
Next Sunday we all went to church, about three mile, everybody a-horseback. The men took their guns along, so did Buck, and kept them between their knees or stood them handy against the wall. The Shepherdsons done the same. It was pretty ornery preachingall about brotherly love, and such-like tiresomeness; but everybody said it was a good sermon, and they all talked it over going home, and had such a powerful lot to say about faith, and good works, and free grace, and preforeordestination, and I dont know what all, that it did seem to me to be one of the roughest Sundays I had run across yet.
About an hour after dinner everybody was dozing around, some in their chairs and some in their rooms, and it got to be pretty dull. Buck and a dog was stretched out on the grass in the sun, sound asleep. I went up to our room, and judged I would take a nap myself. I found that sweet Miss Sophia standing in her door, which was next to ours, and she took me in her room and shut the door very soft, and asked me if I liked her, and I said I did; and she asked me if I would do something for her and not tell anybody, and I said I would. Then she said shed forgot her Testament, and left it in the seat at church, between two other books, and would I slip out quiet and go there and fetch it to her, and not say nothing to nobody. I said I would. So I slid out and slipped off up the road, and there warnt anybody at the church, except maybe a hog or two, for there warnt any lock on the door, and hogs likes a puncheon floor in summer-time because its cool. If you notice, most folks dont go to church only when theyve got to; but a hog is different.
Says I to myself, somethings upit aint natural for a girl to be in such a sweat about a Testament; so I give it a shake, and out drops a little piece of paper with Half-past two wrote on it with a pencil. I ransacked it, but couldnt find anything else. I couldnt make anything out of that, so I put the paper in the book again, and when I got home and up stairs, there was Miss Sophia in her door waiting for me. She pulled me in and shut the door; then she looked in the Testament till she found the paper, and as soon as she read it she looked glad; and before a body could think, she grabbed me and give me a squeeze, and said I was the best boy in the world, and not to tell anybody. She was mighty red in the face, for a minute, and her eyes lighted up and it made her powerful pretty. I was a good deal astonished, but when I got my breath I asked her what the paper was about, and she asked me if I had read it, and I said no, and she asked me if I could read writing, and I told her no, only coarse-hand, and then she said the paper warnt anything but a book-mark to keep her place, and I might go and play now.
I went off down to the river, studying over this thing, and pretty soon I noticed that my nigger was following along behind. When we was out of sight of the house, he looked back and around a second, and then comes a-running, and says:
I followed a half a mile, then he struck out over the swamp and waded ankle deep as much as another half mile. We come to a little flat piece of land which was dry and very thick with trees and bushes and vines, and he says:
Then he slopped right along and went away, and pretty soon the trees hid him. I poked into the place a-ways, and come to a little open patch as big as a bedroom, all hung around with vines, and found a man laying there asleepand by jings it was my old Jim!
I dont want to talk much about the next day. I reckon Ill cut it pretty short. I waked up about dawn, and was agoing to turn over and go to sleep again, when I noticed how still it wasdidnt seem to be anybody stirring. That warnt usual. Next I noticed that Buck was up and gone. Well, I gets up, a-wondering, and goes down stairsnobody around; everything as still as a mouse. Just the same outside; thinks I, what does it mean? Down by the wood-pile I comes across my Jack, and says:
Well, den, Miss Sophias run off! deed she has. She run off in de night, sometimenobody dont know jis whenrun off to git married to dat young Harney Shepherdson, you knowleastways, so dey spec. De fambly foun it out, bout half an hour agomaybe a little moen I tell you dey warnt no time los. Sich another hurryin up guns en hosses you never see! De women folks has gone for to stir up de relations, en ole Mars Saul en de boys tuck dey guns en rode up de river road for to try to ketch dat young man en kill him fo he kin git acrost de river wid Miss Sophia. I reckn deys gwine to be mighty rough times.
Well I reckn he did! Dey warnt gwine to mix you up in it. Mars Buck he loaded up his gun en lowed hes gwine to fetch home a Shepherdson or bust. Well, deyll be plenty un m dah, I reckn, en you bet you hell fetch one ef he gits a chanst.
I took up the river road as hard as I could put. By-and-by I begin to hear guns a good ways off. When I come in sight of the log store and the wood-pile where the steamboats lands, I worked along under the trees and brush till I got to a good place, and then I clumb up into the forks of a cotton-wood that was out of reach, and watched. There was a wood-rank four foot high, a little ways in front of the tree, and first I was going to hide behind that; but maybe it was luckier I didnt.
There was four or five men cavorting around on their horses in the open place before the log store, cussing and yelling, and trying to get at a couple of young chaps that was behind the wood-rank alongside of the steamboat landingbut they couldnt come it. Every time one of them showed himself on the river side of the wood-pile he got shot at. The two boys was squatting back to back behind the pile, so they could watch both ways.
By-and-by the men stopped cavorting around and yelling. They started riding towards the store; then up gets one of the boys, draws a steady bead over the wood-rank, and drops one of them out of his saddle. All the men jumped off of their horses and grabbed the hurt one and started to carry him to the store; and that minute the two boys started on the run. They got half-way to the tree I was in before the men noticed. Then the men see them, and jumped on their horses and took out after them. They gained on the boys, but it didnt do no good, the boys had too good a start; they got to the wood-pile that was in front of my tree, and slipped in behind it, and so they had the bulge on the men again. One of the boys was Buck, and the other was a slim young chap about nineteen years old.
The men ripped around awhile, and then rode away. As soon as they was out of sight, I sung out to Buck and told him. He didnt know what to make of my voice coming out of the tree, at first. He was awful surprised. He told me to watch out sharp and let him know when the men come in sight again; said they was up to some devilment or otherwouldnt be gone long. I wished I was out of that tree, but I dasnt come down. Buck begun to cry and rip, and lowed that him and his cousin Joe (that was the other young chap) would make up for this day, yet. He said his father and his two brothers was killed, and two or three of the enemy. Said the Shepherdsons laid for them, in ambush. Buck said his father and brothers ought to waited for their relationsthe Shepherdsons was too strong for them. I asked him what was become of young Harney and Miss Sophia. He said theyd got across the river and was safe. I was glad of that; but the way Buck did take on because he didnt manage to kill Harney that day he shot at himI haint ever heard anything like it.
All of a sudden, bang! bang! bang! goes three or four gunsthe men had slipped around through the woods and come in from behind without their horses! The boys jumped for the riverboth of them hurtand as they swum down the current the men run along the bank shooting at them and singing out, Kill them, kill them! It made me so sick I most fell out of the tree. I aint agoing to tell all that happenedit would make me sick again if I was to do that. I wished I hadnt ever come ashore that night, to see such things. I aint ever going to get shut of themlots of times I dream about them.
I staid in the tree till it begun to get dark, afraid to come down. Sometimes I heard guns away off in the woods; and twice I seen little gangs of men gallop past the log store with guns; so I reckoned the trouble was still agoing on. I was mighty down-hearted; so I made up my mind I wouldnt ever go anear that house again, because I reckoned I was to blame, somehow. I judged that that piece of paper meant that Miss Sophia was to meet Harney somewheres at half-past two and run off; and I judged I ought to told her father about that paper and the curious way she acted, and then maybe he would a locked her up and this awful mess wouldnt ever happened.
When I got down out of the tree, I crept along down the river bank a piece, and found the two bodies laying in the edge of the water, and tugged at them till I got them ashore; then I covered up their faces, and got away as quick as I could. I cried a little when I was covering up Bucks face, for he was mighty good to me.
It was just dark, now. I never went near the house, but struck through the woods and made for the swamp. Jim warnt on his island, so I tramped off in a hurry for the crick, and crowded through the willows, red-hot to jump aboard and get out of that awful countrythe raft was gone! My souls, but I was scared! I couldnt get my breath for most a minute. Then I raised a yell. A voice not twenty-five foot from me, says:
Laws bless you, chile, I uz right down sho yous dead agin. Jacks been heah, he say he reckn yous ben shot, kase you didn come home no mo; so Is jes dis minute a startin de raf down towards de mouf er de crick, sos to be all ready for to shove out en leave soon as Jack comes agin en tells me for certain you is dead. Lawsy, Is mighty glad to git you back agin, honey.
All rightthats mighty good; they wont find me, and theyll think Ive been killed, and floated down the rivertheres something up there thatll help them to think soso dont you lose no time, Jim, but just shove off for the big water as fast as ever you can.