Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapters 26 to 30 eBook: Page2

Mark Twain (2004)


  CHAPTER XXVII.

  I CREPT to their doors and listened; they was snoring. So I tiptoedalong, and got down stairs all right. There warn't a sound anywheres. Ipeeped through a crack of the dining-room door, and see the men that waswatching the corpse all sound asleep on their chairs. The door was openinto the parlor, where the corpse was laying, and there was a candle inboth rooms. I passed along, and the parlor door was open; but I see therewarn't nobody in there but the remainders of Peter; so I shoved on by;but the front door was locked, and the key wasn't there. Just then Iheard somebody coming down the stairs, back behind me. I run in theparlor and took a swift look around, and the only place I see to hide thebag was in the coffin. The lid was shoved along about a foot, showingthe dead man's face down in there, with a wet cloth over it, and hisshroud on. I tucked the money-bag in under the lid, just down beyondwhere his hands was crossed, which made me creep, they was so cold, andthen I run back across the room and in behind the door.

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

  I slipped up to bed, feeling ruther blue, on accounts of the thingplaying out that way after I had took so much trouble and run so muchresk about it. Says I, if it could stay where it is, all right; becausewhen we get down the river a hundred mile or two I could write back toMary Jane, and she could dig him up again and get it; but that ain't thething that's going to happen; the thing that's going to happen is, themoney 'll be found when they come to screw on the lid. Then the king 'llget it again, and it 'll be a long day before he gives anybody anotherchance to smouch it from him. Of course I WANTED to slide down and get itout of there, but I dasn't try it. Every minute it was getting earliernow, and pretty soon some of them watchers would begin to stir, and Imight get catched--catched with six thousand dollars in my hands thatnobody hadn't hired me to take care of. I don't wish to be mixed up inno such business as that, I says to myself.

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

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

  Then the people begun to flock in, and the beats and the girls took seatsin the front row at the head of the coffin, and for a half an hour thepeople filed around slow, in single rank, and looked down at the deadman's face a minute, and some dropped in a tear, and it was all verystill and solemn, only the girls and the beats holding handkerchiefs totheir eyes and keeping their heads bent, and sobbing a little. Therewarn't no other sound but the scraping of the feet on the floor andblowing noses--because people always blows them more at a funeral thanthey do at other places except church.

  When the place was packed full the undertaker he slid around in his blackgloves with his softy soothering ways, putting on the last touches, andgetting people and things all ship-shape and comfortable, and making nomore sound than a cat. He never spoke; he moved people around, hesqueezed 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 therewarn'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 ayoung woman set down and worked it, and it was pretty skreeky andcolicky, and everybody joined in and sung, and Peter was the only onethat had a good thing, according to my notion. Then the Reverend Hobsonopened up, slow and solemn, and begun to talk; and straight off the mostoutrageous row busted out in the cellar a body ever heard; it was onlyone dog, but he made a most powerful racket, and he kept it up rightalong; the parson he had to stand there, over the coffin, and wait--youcouldn't hear yourself think. It was right down awkward, and nobodydidn't seem to know what to do. But pretty soon they see thatlong-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 toglide along the wall, just his shoulders showing over the people's heads.So he glided along, and the powwow and racket getting more and moreoutrageous all the time; and at last, when he had gone around two sidesof the room, he disappears down cellar. Then in about two seconds weheard a whack, and the dog he finished up with a most amazing howl ortwo, and then everything was dead still, and the parson begun his solemntalk where he left off. In a minute or two here comes this undertaker'sback and shoulders gliding along the wall again; and so he glided andglided around three sides of the room, and then rose up, and shaded hismouth 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 HADA RAT!" Then he drooped down and glided along the wall again to hisplace. You could see it was a great satisfaction to the people, becausenaturally they wanted to know. A little thing like that don't costnothing, and it's just the little things that makes a man to be looked upto and liked. There warn't no more popular man in town than what thatundertaker was.

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

  They buried him, and we come back home, and I went to watching facesagain--I couldn't help it, and I couldn't rest easy. But nothing comeof 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 hiscongregation over in England would be in a sweat about him, so he musthurry and settle up the estate right away and leave for home. He wasvery sorry he was so pushed, and so was everybody; they wished he couldstay longer, but they said they could see it couldn't be done. And hesaid of course him and William would take the girls home with them; andthat pleased everybody too, because then the girls would be well fixedand amongst their own relations; and it pleased the girls, too--tickledthem so they clean forgot they ever had a trouble in the world; and toldhim to sell out as quick as he wanted to, they would be ready. Them poorthings was that glad and happy it made my heart ache to see them gettingfooled and lied to so, but I didn't see no safe way for me to chip in andchange the general tune.

  Well, blamed if the king didn't bill the house and the niggers and allthe 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' joygot the first jolt. A couple of nigger traders come along, and the kingsold 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 theirmother down the river to Orleans. I thought them poor gir
ls and themniggers 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 theyhadn't ever dreamed of seeing the family separated or sold away from thetown. I can't ever get it out of my memory, the sight of them poormiserable 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 andtell on our gang if I hadn't knowed the sale warn't no account and theniggers would be back home in a week or two.

  The thing made a big stir in the town, too, and a good many come outflatfooted and said it was scandalous to separate the mother and thechildren that way. It injured the frauds some; but the old fool hebulled right along, spite of all the duke could say or do, and I tell youthe duke was powerful uneasy.

  Next day was auction day. About broad day in the morning the king andthe duke come up in the garret and woke me up, and I see by their lookthat 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 butour 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 beena-near your room since Miss Mary Jane took you and the duke and showed itto 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 everexpected 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 themall come OUT at once but just one time."

  "Hello! When was that?"

  "It was the day we had the funeral. In the morning. It warn't early,because I overslept. I was just starting down the ladder, and I seethem."

  "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 Isee. They tiptoed away; so I seen, easy enough, that they'd shoved inthere 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 wayof 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 prettysick and tolerable silly. They stood there a-thinking and scratchingtheir heads a minute, and the duke he bust into a kind of a little raspychuckle, and says:

  "It does beat all how neat the niggers played their hand. They let on tobe SORRY they was going out of this region! And I believed they WASsorry, and so did you, and so did everybody. Don't ever tell ME any morethat a nigger ain't got any histrionic talent. Why, the way they playedthat 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-outthan that--and here we've gone and sold 'em for a song. Yes, and ain'tprivileged 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 ownaffairs--if you got any. Long as you're in this town don't you forgitTHAT--you hear?" Then he says to the duke, "We got to jest swaller itand say noth'n': mum's the word for US."

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

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

  The king snarls around on him and says:

  "I was trying to do for the best in sellin' 'em out so quick. If theprofits 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 myadvice listened to."

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