Chapter 17: An Evening Call.—The Farm in Arkansaw.—Interior Decorations.—Stephen Dowling Bots.—Poetical Effusions.. Free audiobook of Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". Audio courtesy of Librivox.
An Evening Call.--The Farm in Arkansaw.--Interior Decorations.--Stephen Dowling Bots.--Poetical Effusions.
IN about a minute somebody spoke out of a window without putting his head out, and says:
"Be done, boys! Who's there?"
"George Jackson, sir."
"What do you want?"
"I don't want nothing, sir. I only want to go along by, but the dogs won't let me."
"What are you prowling around here this time of night for--hey?"
"I warn't prowling around, sir, I fell overboard off of the steamboat."
"Oh, you did, did you? Strike a light there, somebody. What did you say your name was?"
"George Jackson, sir. I'm only a boy."
"Look here, if you're telling the truth you needn't be afraid--nobody'll hurt you. But don't try to budge; stand right where you are. Rouse out Bob and Tom, some of you, and fetch the guns. George Jackson, is there anybody with you?"
"No, sir, nobody."
I heard the people stirring around in the house now, and see a light. The man sung out:
"Snatch that light away, Betsy, you old fool--ain't you got any sense? Put it on the floor behind the front door. Bob, if you and Tom are ready, take your places."
"Now, George Jackson, do you know the Shepherdsons?"
"No, sir; I never heard of them."
"Well, that may be so, and it mayn't. Now, all ready. Step forward, George Jackson. And mind, don't you hurry--come mighty slow. If there's anybody with you, let him keep back--if he shows himself he'll be shot. Come along now. Come slow; push the door open yourself--just enough to squeeze in, d' you hear?"
I didn't hurry; I couldn't if I'd a wanted to. I took one slow step at a time and there warn't a sound, only I thought I could hear my heart. The dogs were as still as the humans, but they followed a little behind me. When I got to the three log doorsteps I heard them unlocking and unbarring and unbolting. I put my hand on the door and pushed it a little and a little more till somebody said, "There, that's enough--put your head in." I done it, but I judged they would take it off.
The candle was on the floor, and there they all was, looking at me, and me at them, for about a quarter of a minute: Three big men with guns pointed at me, which made me wince, I tell you; the oldest, gray and about sixty, the other two thirty or more--all of them fine and handsome--and the sweetest old gray-headed lady, and back of her two young women which I couldn't see right well. The old gentleman says:
"There; I reckon it's all right. Come in."
As soon as I was in the old gentleman he locked the door and barred it and bolted it, and told the young men to come in with their guns, and they all went in a big parlor that had a new rag carpet on the floor, and got together in a corner that was out of the range of the front windows--there warn't none on the side. They held the candle, and took a good look at me, and all said, "Why, he ain't a Shepherdson--no, there ain't any Shepherdson about him." Then the old man said he hoped I wouldn't mind being searched for arms, because he didn't mean no harm by it--it was only to make sure. So he didn't pry into my pockets, but only felt outside with his hands, and said it was all right. He told me to make myself easy and at home, and tell all about myself; but the old lady says:
"Why, bless you, Saul, the poor thing's as wet as he can be; and don't you reckon it may be he's hungry?"
"True for you, Rachel--I forgot."
So the old lady says:
"Betsy" (this was a nigger woman), "you fly around and get him something to eat as quick as you can, poor thing; and one of you girls go and wake up Buck and tell him--oh, here he is himself. Buck, take this little stranger and get the wet clothes off from him and dress him up in some of yours that's dry."
Buck looked about as old as me--thirteen or fourteen or along there, though he was a little bigger than me. He hadn't on anything but a shirt, and he was very frowzy-headed. He came in gaping and digging one fist into his eyes, and he was dragging a gun along with the other one. He says:
"Ain't they no Shepherdsons around?"
They said, no, 'twas a false alarm.
"Well," he says, "if they'd a ben some, I reckon I'd a got one."
They all laughed, and Bob says:
"Why, Buck, they might have scalped us all, you've been so slow in coming."
"Well, nobody come after me, and it ain't right I'm always kept down; I don't get no show."
"Never mind, Buck, my boy," says the old man, "you'll have show enough, all in good time, don't you fret about that. Go 'long with you now, and do as your mother told you."