Chapter 38: The Coat of Arms.—A Skilled Superintendent.—Unpleasant Glory.—A Tearful Subject.. Free audiobook of Mark Twain's "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn". Audio courtesy of Librivox.
The Coat of Arms.--A Skilled Superintendent.--Unpleasant Glory.--A Tearful Subject.
MAKING them pens was a distressid tough job, and so was the saw; and Jim allowed the inscription was going to be the toughest of all. That's the one which the prisoner has to scrabble on the wall. But he had to have it; Tom said he'd got to; there warn't no case of a state prisoner not scrabbling his inscription to leave behind, and his coat of arms.
"Look at Lady Jane Grey," he says; "look at Gilford Dudley; look at old Northumberland! Why, Huck, s'pose it is considerble trouble?--what you going to do?--how you going to get around it? Jim's got to do his inscription and coat of arms. They all do."
"Why, Mars Tom, I hain't got no coat o' arm; I hain't got nuffn but dish yer ole shirt, en you knows I got to keep de journal on dat."
"Oh, you don't understand, Jim; a coat of arms is very different."
"Well," I says, "Jim's right, anyway, when he says he ain't got no coat of arms, because he hain't."
"I reckon I knowed that," Tom says, "but you bet he'll have one before he goes out of this--because he's going out right, and there ain't going to be no flaws in his record."
So whilst me and Jim filed away at the pens on a brickbat apiece, Jim a-making his'n out of the brass and I making mine out of the spoon, Tom set to work to think out the coat of arms. By and by he said he'd struck so many good ones he didn't hardly know which to take, but there was one which he reckoned he'd decide on. He says:
"On the scutcheon we'll have a bend or in the dexter base, a saltire murrey in the fess, with a dog, couchant, for common charge, and under his foot a chain embattled, for slavery, with a chevron vert in a chief engrailed, and three invected lines on a field azure, with the nombril points rampant on a dancette indented; crest, a runaway nigger, sable, with his bundle over his shoulder on a bar sinister; and a couple of gules for supporters, which is you and me; motto, Maggiore Fretta, Minore Otto. Got it out of a book--means the more haste the less speed."
"Geewhillikins," I says, "but what does the rest of it mean?"
"We ain't got no time to bother over that," he says; "we got to dig in like all git-out."
"Well, anyway," I says, "what's some of it? What's a fess?"
"A fess--a fess is--you don't need to know what a fess is. I'll show him how to make it when he gets to it."
"Shucks, Tom," I says, "I think you might tell a person. What's a bar sinister?"
"Oh, I don't know. But he's got to have it. All the nobility does."
That was just his way. If it didn't suit him to explain a thing to you, he wouldn't do it. You might pump at him a week, it wouldn't make no difference.
He'd got all that coat of arms business fixed, so now he started in to finish up the rest of that part of the work, which was to plan out a mournful inscription--said Jim got to have one, like they all done. He made up a lot, and wrote them out on a paper, and read them off, so:
1. Here a captive heart busted. 2. Here a poor prisoner, forsook by the world and friends, fretted his sorrowful life. 3. Here a lonely heart broke, and a worn spirit went to its rest, after thirty-seven years of solitary captivity. 4. Here, homeless and friendless, after thirty-seven years of bitter captivity, perished a noble stranger, natural son of Louis XIV.
Tom's voice trembled whilst he was reading them, and he most broke down. When he got done he couldn't no way make up his mind which one for Jim to scrabble on to the wall, they was all so good; but at last he allowed he would let him scrabble them all on. Jim said it would take him a year to scrabble such a lot of truck on to the logs with a nail, and he didn't know how to make letters, besides; but Tom said he would block them out for him, and then he wouldn't have nothing to do but just follow the lines. Then pretty soon he says:
"Come to think, the logs ain't a-going to do; they don't have log walls in a dungeon: we got to dig the inscriptions into a rock. We'll fetch a rock."
Jim said the rock was worse than the logs; he said it would take him such a pison long time to dig them into a rock he wouldn't ever get out. But Tom said he would let me help him do it. Then he took a look to see how me and Jim was getting along with the pens. It was most pesky tedious hard work and slow, and didn't give my hands no show to get well of the sores, and we didn't seem to make no headway, hardly; so Tom says:
"I know how to fix it. We got to have a rock for the coat of arms and mournful inscriptions, and we can kill two birds with that same rock. There's a gaudy big grindstone down at the mill, and we'll smouch it, and carve the things on it, and file out the pens and the saw on it, too."