THE doctor was an old man; a very nice, kind-look-
ing old man when I got him up. I told him
me and my brother was over on Spanish Island hunt-
ing yesterday afternoon, and camped on a piece of a
raft we found,
and about midnight he must a kicked his
gun in his dreams, for it went off and shot him in the
leg, and we wanted him to go over there and fix it and
not say nothing about it, nor let anybody know, be-
cause we wanted to come home this evening and sur-
prise the folks.
"Who is your folks?" he says.
"The Phelpses, down yonder."
"Oh," he says. And after a minute, he says:
"How'd you say he got shot?"
"He had a dream," I says, "and it shot him."
"Singular dream," he says.
So he lit up his lantern, and got his saddle-bags, and
we started. But when he sees the canoe he didn't like
the look of her -- said she was big enough for one, but
didn't look pretty safe for two. I says:
"Oh, you needn't be afeard, sir, she carried the
three of us easy enough."
"Why, me and Sid, and -- and -- and THE GUNS;
that's what I mean."
"Oh," he says.
But he put his foot on the gunnel and rocked her,
and shook his head, and said he reckoned he'd look
around for a bigger one. But they was all locked and
chained; so he took my canoe, and said for me to wait
till he come back, or I could hunt around further, or
maybe I better go down home and get them ready for
the surprise if I wanted to. But I said I didn't; so
I told him just how to find the raft, and then he started.
I struck an idea pretty soon. I says to myself,
spos'n he can't fix that leg just in three shakes of a
sheep's tail, as the saying is? spos'n it takes him three
or four days? What are we going to do? -- lay around
there till he lets the cat out of the bag? No, sir; I
know what I'LL do. I'll wait, and when he comes back
if he says he's got to go any more I'll get down there,
too, if I swim; and we'll take and tie him, and keep
him, and shove out down the river; and when Tom's
done with him we'll give him what it's worth, or all
we got, and then let him get ashore.
So then I crept into a lumber-pile to get some sleep;
and next time I waked up the sun was away up over
my head! I shot out and went for the doctor's
house, but they told me he'd gone away in the night
some time or other, and warn't back yet. Well, thinks
I, that looks powerful bad for Tom, and I'll dig out
for the island right off. So away I shoved, and turned
the corner, and nearly rammed my head into Uncle
Silas's stomach! He says:
"Why, TOM! Where you been all this time, you
"I hain't been nowheres," I says, "only just hunt-
ing for the runaway nigger -- me and Sid."
"Why, where ever did you go?" he says. "Your
aunt's been mighty uneasy."
"She needn't," I says, "because we was all right.
We followed the men and the dogs, but they outrun us,
and we lost them; but we thought we heard them on
the water, so we got a canoe and took out after them
and crossed over, but couldn't find nothing of them;
so we cruised along up-shore till we got kind of tired
and beat out; and tied up the canoe and went to sleep,
and never waked up till about an hour ago; then we
paddled over here to hear the news, and Sid's at the
post-office to see what he can hear, and I'm a-branch-
ing out to get something to eat for us, and then we're
So then we went to the post-office to get "Sid"; but
just as I suspicioned, he warn't there; so the old man
he got a letter out of the office, and we waited awhile
longer, but Sid didn't come; so the old man said,
come along, let Sid foot it home, or canoe it, when he
got done fooling around -- but we would ride. I
couldn't get him to let me stay and wait for Sid; and
he said there warn't no use in it, and I must come
along, and let Aunt Sally see we was all right.
When we got home Aunt Sally was that glad to see
me she laughed and cried both, and hugged me, and
give me one of them lickings of hern that don't amount
to shucks, and said she'd serve Sid the same when he
And the place was plum full of farmers and farmers'
wives, to dinner; and such another clack a body never
heard. Old Mrs. Hotchkiss was the worst; her tongue
was a-going all the time. She says:
"Well, Sister Phelps, I've ransacked that-air cabin
over, an' I b'lieve the nigger was crazy. I says to
Sister Damrell -- didn't I, Sister Damrell? -- s'I, he's
crazy, s'I -- them's the very words I said. You all
hearn me: he's crazy, s'I; everything shows it, s'I.
Look at that-air grindstone, s'I; want to tell ME't any
cretur 't's in his right mind 's a goin' to scrabble all
them crazy things onto a grindstone, s'I? Here sich 'n'
sich a person busted his heart; 'n' here so 'n' so
pegged along for thirty-seven year, 'n' all that --
natcherl son o' Louis somebody, 'n' sich everlast'n
rubbage. He's plumb crazy, s'I; it's what I says in
the fust place, it's what I says in the middle, 'n' it's
what I says last 'n' all the time -- the nigger's crazy --
crazy 's Nebokoodneezer, s'I."
"An' look at that-air ladder made out'n rags, Sister
Hotchkiss," says old Mrs. Damrell; "what in the
name o' goodness COULD he ever want of --"
"The very words I was a-sayin' no longer ago th'n
this minute to Sister Utterback, 'n' she'll tell you so
herself. Sh-she, look at that-air rag ladder, sh-she;
'n' s'I, yes, LOOK at it, s'I -- what COULD he a-wanted
of it, s'I. Sh-she, Sister Hotchkiss, sh-she --"
"But how in the nation'd they ever GIT that grind-
stone IN there, ANYWAY? 'n' who dug that-air HOLE? 'n'
"My very WORDS, Brer Penrod! I was a-sayin' --
pass that-air sasser o' m'lasses, won't ye? -- I was
a-sayin' to Sister Dunlap, jist this minute, how DID they
git that grindstone in there, s'I. Without HELP, mind
you -- 'thout HELP! THAT'S wher 'tis. Don't tell ME,
s'I; there WUZ help, s'I; 'n' ther' wuz a PLENTY help,
too, s'I; ther's ben a DOZEN a-helpin' that nigger, 'n' I
lay I'd skin every last nigger on this place but I'D find
out who done it, s'I; 'n' moreover, s'I --"
"A DOZEN says you! -- FORTY couldn't a done every
thing that's been done. Look at them case-knife saws
and things, how tedious they've been made; look at
that bed-leg sawed off with 'm, a week's work for six
men; look at that nigger made out'n straw on the bed;
and look at --"
"You may WELL say it, Brer Hightower! It's jist as
I was a-sayin' to Brer Phelps, his own self. S'e, what
do YOU think of it, Sister Hotchkiss, s'e? Think o'
what, Brer Phelps, s'I? Think o' that bed-leg sawed
off that a way, s'e? THINK of it, s'I? I lay it never
sawed ITSELF off, s'I -- somebody SAWED it, s'I; that's
my opinion, take it or leave it, it mayn't be no 'count,
s'I, but sich as 't is, it's my opinion, s'I, 'n' if any
body k'n start a better one, s'I, let him DO it, s'I,
that's all. I says to Sister Dunlap, s'I --"
"Why, dog my cats, they must a ben a house-full o'
niggers in there every night for four weeks to a done
all that work, Sister Phelps. Look at that shirt --
every last inch of it kivered over with secret African
writ'n done with blood! Must a ben a raft uv 'm at it
right along, all the time, amost. Why, I'd give two
dollars to have it read to me; 'n' as for the niggers
that wrote it, I 'low I'd take 'n' lash 'm t'll --"
"People to HELP him, Brother Marples! Well, I
reckon you'd THINK so if you'd a been in this house for
a while back. Why, they've stole everything they
could lay their hands on -- and we a-watching all the
time, mind you. They stole that shirt right off o' the
line! and as for that sheet they made the rag ladder out
of, ther' ain't no telling how many times they DIDN'T
steal that; and flour, and candles, and candlesticks,
and spoons, and the old warming-pan, and most a
thousand things that I disremember now, and my new
calico dress; and me and Silas and my Sid and Tom
on the constant watch day AND night, as I was a-telling
you, and not a one of us could catch hide nor hair nor
sight nor sound of them; and here at the last minute,
lo and behold you, they slides right in under our noses
and fools us, and not only fools US but the Injun Terri-
tory robbers too, and actuly gets AWAY with that nigger
safe and sound, and that with sixteen men and twenty-
two dogs right on their very heels at that very time!
I tell you, it just bangs anything I ever HEARD of.
Why, SPERITS couldn't a done better and been no
smarter. And I reckon they must a BEEN sperits -- be-
cause, YOU know our dogs, and ther' ain't no better;
well, them dogs never even got on the TRACK of 'm
once! You explain THAT to me if you can! -- ANY of
"Well, it does beat --"
"Laws alive, I never --"
"So help me, I wouldn't a be --"
"HOUSE-thieves as well as --"
"Goodnessgracioussakes, I'd a ben afeard to live in
sich a --"
"'Fraid to LIVE! -- why, I was that scared I dasn't
hardly go to bed, or get up, or lay down, or SET down,
Sister Ridgeway. Why, they'd steal the very -- why,
goodness sakes, you can guess what kind of a fluster I
was in by the time midnight come last night. I hope
to gracious if I warn't afraid they'd steal some o' the
family! I was just to that pass I didn't have no reason-
ing faculties no more. It looks foolish enough NOW, in
the daytime; but I says to myself, there's my two poor
boys asleep, 'way up stairs in that lonesome room, and
I declare to goodness I was that uneasy 't I crep' up
there and locked 'em in! I DID. And anybody would.
Because, you know, when you get scared that way,
and it keeps running on, and getting worse and worse
all the time, and your wits gets to addling, and you get
to doing all sorts o' wild things, and by and by you
think to yourself, spos'n I was a boy, and was away up
there, and the door ain't locked, and you --" She
stopped, looking kind of wondering, and then she
turned her head around slow, and when her eye lit on
me -- I got up and took a walk.
Says I to myself, I can explain better how we come
to not be in that room this morning if I go out to one
side and study over it a little. So I done it. But I
dasn't go fur, or she'd a sent for me. And when it
was late in the day the people all went, and then I
come in and told her the noise and shooting waked up
me and "Sid," and the door was locked, and we
wanted to see the fun, so we went down the lightning-
rod, and both of us got hurt a little, and we didn't never
want to try THAT no more. And then I went on and
told her all what I told Uncle Silas before; and then
she said she'd forgive us, and maybe it was all right
enough anyway, and about what a body might expect
of boys, for all boys was a pretty harum-scarum lot as
fur as she could see; and so, as long as no harm hadn't
come of it, she judged she better put in her time being
grateful we was alive and well and she had us still, stead
of fretting over what was past and done. So then she
kissed me, and patted me on the head, and dropped
into a kind of a brown study; and pretty soon jumps
up, and says:
"Why, lawsamercy, it's most night, and Sid not
come yet! What HAS become of that boy?"
I see my chance; so I skips up and says:
"I'll run right up to town and get him," I says.
"No you won't," she says. "You'll stay right
wher' you are; ONE'S enough to be lost at a time. If
he ain't here to supper, your uncle 'll go."
Well, he warn't there to supper; so right after
supper uncle went.
He come back about ten a little bit uneasy; hadn't
run across Tom's track. Aunt Sally was a good DEAL
uneasy; but Uncle Silas he said there warn't no occa-
sion to be -- boys will be boys, he said, and you'll see
this one turn up in the morning all sound and right.
So she had to be satisfied. But she said she'd set up
for him a while anyway, and keep a light burning so he
could see it.
And then when I went up to bed she come up with
me and fetched her candle, and tucked me in, and
mothered me so good I felt mean, and like I couldn't
look her in the face; and she set down on the bed and
talked with me a long time, and said what a splendid
boy Sid was, and didn't seem to want to ever stop
talking about him; and kept asking me every now and
then if I reckoned he could a got lost, or hurt, or
maybe drownded, and might be laying at this minute
somewheres suffering or dead, and she not by him to
help him, and so the tears would drip down silent, and
I would tell her that Sid was all right, and would be
home in the morning, sure; and she would squeeze my
hand, or maybe kiss me, and tell me to say it again,
and keep on saying it, because it done her good, and
she was in so much trouble. And when she was going
away she looked down in my eyes so steady and gentle,
"The door ain't going to be locked, Tom, and
there's the window and the rod; but you'll be good,
WON'T you? And you won't go? For MY sake."
Laws knows I WANTED to go bad enough to see about
Tom, and was all intending to go; but after that I
wouldn't a went, not for kingdoms.
But she was on my mind and Tom was on my mind,
so I slept very restless. And twice I went down the
rod away in the night, and slipped around front, and
see her setting there by her candle in the window with
her eyes towards the road and the tears in them; and
I wished I could do something for her, but I couldn't,
only to swear that I wouldn't never do nothing to
grieve her any more. And the third time I waked up
at dawn, and slid down, and she was there yet, and
her candle was most out, and her old gray head was
resting on her hand, and she was asleep.