He started to come up in the cupola and the first thing he says was, "Fares, please." "How much?" says I. "Where you goin'?" says he. "To Havaner," I says. "Where did you get on?" "At Atterberry," I says. I began to look for Willie Wallace, but he warn't anywhere around. Then the conductor says, "One dollar." I pulled a dollar out and handed it to him. Then he turned to Mitch and says, "You goin' to Havaner, too?" Mitch says, "Yes, sir." "One dollar, please," says the conductor. Mitch didn't have it—he only had 80 cents. So I gave my other dollar to the conductor, and he climbed into the cupola and stayed a bit and then climbed down and went away sommers.
Mitch says, "Well, that about cleans us out. We've got just 80 cents now between us. I thought Willie Wallace was your friend."
"He is," says I, "but I never met this here conductor before."
"It looks like it," says Mitch. "And now who knows what this will do to us? Suppose we have to pay our fare on the boat? That means we'll have to lay over long enough in Havaner to earn the money. One thing sometimes leads to another."
Just then Willie Wallace came through the caboose, and the train stopped. I looked out and saw we was alongside a corn-crib—nothin' else; but we began to back on to a switch, and pretty soon stopped. And now it was so still that you could hear the crickets chirp in the grass. It was a lonely country here—flat and sandy. Mitch and I got down and went to the back platform to see what Willie Wallace was doin'. He was standin' by the switch. And pretty soon the passenger train came whizzin' by. And what do you suppose? There stood pa on the back platform of the last car, smokin' a cigar and talkin' to a man.
We backed up and started on. Willie Wallace came into the caboose. Here we was in a pickle. If I complained to Willie Wallace about the conductor takin' two dollars for our fare, I was afraid he'd say, "Look here, what's your pa doin' on that train goin' back to Petersburg? You ain't goin' to Havaner to meet him—you're runnin' off—that's what you are. And I'll put you off here and you can walk back, or I'll take you to Havaner and give you over to the police." So I was afraid and I began to edge.
Says I: "What time does that train get to Petersburg, Willie?"
"About an hour from here," says he.
"Where does it come from?"
"Does it come through Havaner?"
"Why, of course it does; why?"
"Because," says I, "I thought I saw a friend of my pa's standin' on the back platform."
"Who?" says Willie.
"Well, you don't know him," says I. "He's a friend of my pa's."
Willie didn't say nothin'.
Then I says, "Didn't you see a couple of men standin' on the back platform?"
"No," says Willie. "I can't be watchin' things like that when I'm takin' care of a switch and all that."
Mitch looked at me. We knew then it was all right. So I started in on the money.
"Look here, Willie, this here conductor hit us for two dollars, a dollar apiece for our fare to Havaner."
"No," says Willie.
"Honest, didn't he, Mitch?"
Mitch said, "Yep."
"Well, he must be foolin'," says Willie, "for the fare is only 60 cents from Atterberry, and you'd go half fare at 30 cents."
Mitch says, "I've heard about conductors knockin' down, and this looks like it to me. But what's two dollars? When we get to Havaner, Skeet's pa will give him that twice over, if he wants it. So let it go, Skeet. If a conductor wants to be mean enough to cheat a couple of boys, and the railroad is mean enough to take the money, I say, let it go."
We hadn't gone more'n six miles anyway when the train stopped again. Willie and the conductor went way up toward the engine, and we was stalled here for most an hour. It was a hot box or somethin'. And we got tired and we was as hungry as wolves, since we hadn't et anything since morning.
Pretty soon Willie came in and says, "She's whistlin' for Havaner." We curved around by a sand hill and drew up by the depot. The sun was just above the tree tops. It had taken us hours and hours to come from Atterberry, and Willie said it wasn't more'n forty miles. We hopped off and started away.
"Here," said the conductor. "Here's the receipt for your fare." He slipped the two dollars into my hand with a laugh, and we shook hands with Willie Wallace and started up town.
It seemed sad to part with Willie Wallace at the depot, but things was changed. He wasn't rollickin' and free no more, but looked serious and busy. Havaner was a big town, so there was a lot of switchin' to do, and Willie just said, "Good luck, boys," and disappeared sommers between cars. Then we started up the street, goin' to the steamboat landin'.
It must have been more'n a mile; and the sun was goin' down now and we began to wonder about the night. By and by, after inquirin' several times, we found the street that went to the landin' and hurried down. Well, here was a river! How could the Mississippi be much bigger? It was twict as big as the Sangamon, or bigger, and the big sycamore trees on the other side looked a mile away. And here was a bridge way up in the air crossin' the river for wagons and people, and furder down a railroad bridge, and you could look up or down the river for miles. Says I to Mitch, "How do you like this?" Says he, "Wal, sir, I just feel as if I could fly, I am that happy." There was lots of house boats on the shore, where fishermen lived; there was nets stretched out on the sand; and some wound up on reels, and there was just sloughs of row boats, and a good many people movin' around, and some dogs barkin', and the sun was just gettin' behind the woods on the other side of the river.
So then we began to ask when there was a steamboat to St. Louis. And a man said, "To-night. Hey, Bill," he called to another feller, "ain't the City of Peoria goin' down to-night?" The feller called back "yes." Mitch's eyes just glowed. He just stepped aside and I did and he said, "Now luck is with us." Then I said, "Let's ask somebody else about the boat, we might as well be sure." Just then a big boy came along, about eighteen, so we asked him. He was carryin' some fish and was in a hurry, and he said, "No boat for a week, kids," and went right on. That took the spirit out of us. So we went to a house-boat and asked a woman who was cookin' supper and she said she didn't know whether the St. Louis boat was a day late or not; that sometimes it was a day late, and if it was, it wouldn't be in till day after to-morrow. Just then her husband came up and heard us, and he said, "'Pears to me the boat went down last night. I can't ricollect. We don't pay much attention to the boats, havin' our own business to watch. But," says the man, "if you go up to the hotel, they have a time card up there; or I'll tell you, go over there to the landing, and look on the door of the office, and see if there ain't a time card tacked up." So we hurried over there, but some one had torn off the card, and the office was closed. Then we went up to the hotel.
We could see into the dinin' room and see the waitress girls carryin' trays and the food smelt wonderful, but it was fifty cents to eat and we couldn't afford it. Anyway we came up to ask about the boat. There was a gray-haired little feller standin' behind the desk, and awful busy with people comin' and goin', and we stood there tryin' to get in a word; but just as one of us would say, "What time—" a man would step up and say: "I'm checkin' out," or "Let me have 201 again," or somethin' like that. Finally nobody was there and Mitch got it out, "When does the steamboat go to St. Louis?"
The little feller didn't look at Mitch, he looked at me stiddy a long while. Then he looked at Mitch and back again at me. And he says: "Ain't you the son of States Attorney Kirby?" He got me so quick I couldn't say nothin', so I says, "Yes, sir." "Wal," says he, "I thought so. You look like him. And I believe you boys are runnin' away. I think I'll turn you over to the policeman."
So I stood there and said to myself, "It's ended—we're done." And I was so scared I couldn't move. And just then Mitch began to talk, and he says: "You can't, because we just talked to him ourselves, and asked him about the boat, and he's gone home to supper, and he knows us and knows where we're visitin' with my aunt here in Havaner. And if you don't want to tell us when the boat comes in so we can go down and look at her and really see a steamboat, all right."
Just then the bus backed up to the hotel and a lot of men got out with satchels and came hurryin' in and writin' their names in the book and gettin' rooms and things—and while the clerk was flustered with this business, we sneaked out.
So then we was pretty hungry and we went back to the river, I don't know just why. But we came to the fisherman's boat again, where the woman was cookin' supper, and said she, "Did you find out when the boat comes?" And we said no, but we asked her if we could have some fried fish for a nickel and she says "yes," and asked us in, and so Mitch and me sat with the fambly and looked out of the little winder at the river and et all the cat fish we wanted, with corn bread and onions and things. There was a baby at the table and his nose kept runnin' and his ma just let it; and besides there was a little girl with hands as little as a bird's and black eyes and a pig tail, which made her hair as tight around her head as a drum; and besides them, two boys and a man who boarded there and the husband. And we could see the bed to one side and some cots. They all lived here together, right on the river, with the mosquitoes and the flies, which was awful. And at supper the man said: "Now ain't it funny that nobody can tell about the boat! She's comin' in to-night from St. Louis and will land about 11, like she allus does. And she goes back to-morrow, or the next day, I forget which. Sometimes she changes her schedule and don't go back till Saturday—and sometimes they get up an excursion here to go up to Copperas Creek, and then she don't go back until that's over. But when she gets in, just ask the captain, and he'll know for sure."
After supper, we walked out by the river. We waited till about eight o'clock and then took a swim, and I was beginnin' to think where we was goin' to sleep. But Mitch had decided that. There was a shed near the shore with the slant away from the river, and Mitch says, "That's the place. The water moccasins won't bother us there, and the mosquitoes won't, after a bit, and we can see down the river for miles, and see the City of Peoria when she first turns the bend down there." So we got up on the shed and lay down lookin' straight up into the sky at the stars. It was a clear night and as quiet as a graveyard, only now and then we heard a voice, or a dog bark, or the dip of an oar in the river. And Mitch lay with his hands under his head lookin' up at the stars and not sayin' anything. After a while he says: "Skeet, I told you there was somethin' on my mind, and there is. There's more than one thing on my mind, but I'm just wonderin' whether I'll tell you all of it or not."
"Why not?" says I.
"Because about one thing I don't know what I'm goin' to do myself, and if I talk about it, I'm likely to say I'll do this or that, and then if I don't you'll wonder; and I believe until I know just what I'm goin' to do, I'd better keep still. And as far as that goes, this goin' to see Tom Sawyer might have something to do with it. We might not come back—or get back in time for this thing that's in my mind. Although it don't take long to come back. And so, considerin' everything, I decided I'd take a chance, for we must see Tom Sawyer, Skeet; it must be and it has to be now. You see I'm a little mixed up after all; and ain't grown folks mixed up? I never see anybody more mixed about what to do than my pa sometimes. But I'll tell you this much, Skeet, we wouldn't be here to-night, and we wouldn't be on our way now to see Tom Sawyer if it warn't for one thing."
"What's that?" says I.
"Zueline," says Mitch. Then Mitch began to shake, and I knew he was cryin', and he took his hands from under his head and put them over his eyes, and everything was so still it scared me. Then Mitch quit shakin' and took his hands off his eyes and looked straight up and was still for a long while. I couldn't guess what was the matter. Had Zueline died, maybe, or gone visitin', or quarreled with Mitch? So after a bit I says: "Well, Mitch, you know me—I'm true blue, and I'll stand by you, and if you want to tell me, just tell me, and I'll never peach as long as I live."
So Mitch says: "Well, Skeet, I have a different feelin' toward you from what I have towards Zueline. You see I don't want to protect you, or take care of you, and of course I'd fight for you, or help you any way I could. But it's different with Zueline—I'd die for her, and sometimes I want to, specially if she'd die at the same time, and our funerals could be together and we could be buried in the same grave. I have the same feelin' about her that I have when I look at them stars, I just get full in the throat, and don't know what I am or where I am, or what to do."
"Well," says I, "I know that, Mitch, leastways I suspicioned it—or somethin' like it, from the way you always treated Zueline, but tell me what in the world has happened."
"The worst has happened," says Mitch. "They've taken her away from me."
"How do you mean?" says I.
"Well," says Mitch, "the day before I came out to the farm to get you, Mrs. Hasson came over to see ma. I was out in the yard gettin' some kindlin' for the wood box, and I saw Mrs. Hasson coming. She never comes to see ma, and I wondered what it could be about. So I went up-stairs and looked down into the settin' room through the pipe-hole in the floor and heard everything they said. And this is about it.
"Mrs. Hasson began by sayin' to ma: 'I think you have a very remarkable boy, and I don't want to see any harm come to him, and so I've come over here, Mrs. Miller, to talk about your boy and Zueline.' 'What's the matter?' says ma, in a scared way. 'Nothing,' says Mrs. Hasson, 'except I never see a boy of his age so attached to a girl, so in love with her,' she says, 'for that's it; and it won't do.' And ma says, 'I never noticed it. Of course I knew they played together and was little sweethearts like children will be. All the children play together just like lambs, as you might say.' 'Well,' says Mrs. Hasson, 'they are lambs; Zueline is a lamb and so is Mitch. But it's clear out of the way for children to have such a deep feelin' for each other—it scares me. And while I don't think Zueline feels exactly the same way, it's not the thing for a girl of twelve to be so much taken up with a little boy; nor for a little boy to be so completely absorbed in a little girl. So I've come over to tell you that we must work together to separate 'em; and to begin with, I'm goin' to take Zueline away for a visit, and that will help to break it, and by the time she gets back, it will be over or nearly so; and if it ain't, we must work together to keep them away from each other. Zueline can't come here any more; and Mitchie mustn't come to our house, and they mustn't go to parties where they meet.' So ma said she thought so too."
Here Mitch grew still and he began to shake again, and I just lay there and looked at the stars and waited. Finally Mitch started again:
"Skeet, when I heard this, I grew cold all over—my whole body got prickly, my brain began to tingle, the sweat started out on my face, I was just as weak as a cat. I just rolled over on my back as if I was dead. It was just the same as if you said to a feller: 'you have just a minute to live.' I lay there and heard 'em talk about church and a lot of other things, and then I heard Mrs. Hasson say she had to go, and I heard her walk out, and down the walk, and I heard the gate click. She was gone. The thing was done. I had lost Zueline. And I'll never get over it. It don't make no difference if I live to be a thousand years old, I'll never get over it. I'll never love any one else; I'll never feel the same again. And when I went down-stairs and began to carry in the kindlin', ma came into the kitchen. And after a bit she said: 'Mitchie, I want you to do a lot in school this fall and winter. I want you to put your mind on it, for I think you're goin' to be a man in the world and I want you to get ready. And you mustn't waste so much time on Zueline. She's just a little girl and you're just a little boy; and she seems awful pretty to you now, but she ain't really pretty. She won't be a pretty woman. I can see that now, but you can't. She's goin' to have more or less of a hard face like her mother. And if she was the girl for you, and I could see it, I wouldn't say this. But I know she isn't. She won't be good enough for you. And, besides, this boy and girl business is all foolishness and you must stop it. I've already told Mrs. Hasson that I think it ought to be stopped.' Do you see how good ma was? She wanted me to think it was her and not Mrs. Hasson that was interferin'. But I was cold all through, and turned to stone like. My eyes felt hard and tight like buttons, and I laughed—Yep, I really laughed, and said to ma—'All right, ma. I'll obey you.' And she says: 'You're a good boy, and I love you most to death.' So then I couldn't sleep that night, and the next mornin' I started early for the farm, to get you to go now to see Tom Sawyer; for when a thing like this happens, the only thing to do is to go away, just as fur as you can."
Mitch had been talkin' slower and slower, and finally he gave a kind of long breath, and I knew he was asleep. I crawled to the edge of the roof and looked out at the river, at the red lanterns on the bridge which was reflected in the water, at the river, which I could see movin' like a tired snake, at the dark woods across the river. Then I slid back near to Mitch and fell asleep too.
Something woke me up. I don't know what. I didn't know where I was at first. There wasn't a sound except a dog barkin' way off. Mitch was sound asleep. Pretty soon I thought I heard somethin' way down the river. I kept lookin', past the bridge where the red lanterns hung, way down into the darkness of the river, between the woods. And all of a sudden I saw two lights, then more lights, then fire shot straight up from smokestacks. It was a steamboat. It must be the City of Peoria, from St. Louis.
I shook Mitch and got him to. He rubbed his eyes, then jumped up sudden and strong. He stood up and looked. "Skeet," he says, "there she is. Who knows Tom Sawyer may have seen her this week or last week? Tom Sawyer may have been on her. What would you think if Tom Sawyer was actually on her, takin' a trip? For he can go anywheres he wants to, havin' as much money as he has."
So we stood up and watched her. And pretty soon we could hear her puff, and see all the lights and see the fire and the sparks shoot out of the smokestacks; and as far as I could see, there wasn't no one but Mitch and me watchin' her and waitin' for her to come in. It seemed she'd never get in. She puffed and blowed. The current must have been awful strong. By and by we thought we could hear voices on her; we could hear the bell. And finally she came under the bridge, blowin' smoke and noise right against the floor of the bridge with a louder noise. That was about a half a mile away, it seemed. And pretty soon then she swung to right opposite the shed where we was, and nosed in. They threw down a gang plank and the men began to work, niggers and such. We went down and watched 'em. The captain came along, and Mitch says to me, "Now we got to find out about the boat, and we've got to get a job on her and work our way. We must hang on to our money as long as we can." So Mitch went right up to the captain and says: "Can we get a job on this here boat, me and my chum?"
The captain says, "What can you do?"
"We can do anything," says Mitch.
"Can you peel potatoes, and carry water, and wait on table?"
"Yes, sir," says Mitch.
"All right," says the captain. "You're hired; ten cents a day and board. Report in the mornin' at six o'clock."
"I'm ready now," says Mitch.
"Report in the mornin'," says the captain.
Then Mitch says: "Why can't we go on board now, and go to bed and be ready when six o'clock comes?"
Just then he began to holler at some niggers carryin' some boxes, and he said to us, "Get out of the way there." We stepped aside, and the niggers got between us and the captain, and when they was past the captain had disappeared. We couldn't see him nowheres. There was a man standin' there, a kind of boss, it seemed. So we asked him when the boat was goin' back to St. Louis, and he said to-morrow at noon. Then another boss spoke up and said, "No, we're goin' up to Copperas Creek, back Saturday." "Who says so?" "Well, that's the talk." "You didn't get that from the captain." "No, but that's the talk."
"Gee," said Mitch, "what wouldn't you give to sleep on her? We could sleep on the deck. Let's wait and ask the captain."
We waited around for about an hour. But the captain didn't appear. Then Mitch says: "Come on, Skeet, we're hired, we belong on this boat, we have a right to get on her, let's climb around there up to the deck."
So we watched so nobody could see us. We climbed around, up the poles, over the railing, and got on to the deck. It was way off toward the bow and nobody was there. We looked at the river a bit. Things got quieter and quieter. Finally we lay down on the deck and fell asleep.
And pretty soon I began to feel it was gettin' daylight. I didn't sleep very well. And by and by I felt somebody nudgin' me, and I opened my eyes, and there stood a man in a white apron with a white cap on. And he says, "Here, what you doin' here? You ain't got no right on this boat." He nudged Mitch, and Mitch woke up. Then the man said, "Where do you boys belong? Did you get on at Bath, or Beardstown?"
"We got on here," says Mitch. "We're hired. The captain hired us to peel potatoes and carry water, and we're here ready to work."
"You are, are you?" says the cook, for it was the cook. "Well, then, come along. It's half past five, and time to go to work."
He took us to the kitchen and set us to work. First we both peeled potatoes. Then he set us doin' all sorts of things, carryin' dishes, bringin' his terbaker, and I had to carry water; and finally he made me wipe dishes which a girl was washin'. And such a lot of swearin' you never heard in your life. The cook was singin' a song which went somethin' like this, as far as I can remember:
There was a little girl, and she lived with her mother, And the world all over couldn't find such a nother, Tum-a-ter-a-um-a lida bugaroo, Tum-a-ter-a-um-a lida bugaroo.
She had hair on her head like thorns on the hedges, And the teeth in her jaws was a set of iron wedges, Tum-a-ter-a-um-a lida bugaroo, Tum-a-ter-a-um-a lida bugaroo.
And he was throwin' things into the skillet and callin' to the girl who was washin' dishes. She wore slippers that slipped back and forth on her feet; her apron was twisted; her hair was twisted in a little knot; she had on a brass ring, and he called her Susie. Then he'd sing:
There goes Susie Skinner, How in the hell you know? I know her by her apron strings, And her shoe strings draggin' on the floor, Gol dern her, And her shoe strings draggin' on the floor.
By and by breakfast was ready, and Mitch and me could hardly wait. We couldn't eat till all the passengers was served, for they made us go in and take away the soiled dishes. And so when it came our turn, we just pitched into the liver and potatoes and the pancakes.
And it must have been about half past ten, and hot. It was hot like the sun under a burning glass, and the river smelled and the dead fish. Only a little breeze began to stir after a while, and then it was better. We had nothin' to do now, and stood by the railin' lookin' at the kids on shore. "Don't you bet they wish they were here?" said Mitch. "Well, we've struck it, at last, and by Saturday, we'll see Tom Sawyer, and tell him all about our trip."
I began to hear the sound of a fiddle, and a lot of laughin'; so Mitch and me edged around the deck till we got toward the front right under the little cupola where the wheel was, where the captain stood when the boat was runnin'. And there sat a lot of men, the captain and several others, with some glasses and beer bottles; and a white-haired man, his name was Col. Lambkin, with his mustache curled and waxed up and all white too, was dancin' as nimble as a boy. This fiddler was playin' somethin' awful devilish and quick, and the rest was pattin' their hands and feet while the old feller was dancin'. He was dressed in a fine, tight fittin' coat and had on varnished shoes, and a panama hat with a string buttoned into his lapel so his hat wouldn't blow away; and a diamond in his necktie, and one on his hand that I could see glitter as he danced.
We got up closer, and the captain saw us and said: "Come over here now and do a jig—come on."
The fiddler stopped playin' and looked around. It was John Armstrong. First he looked at me, then he looked down at the floor, kind a funny like, and then he raised his eyes and looked at us again. We just stood there, not knowin' what to do. Then John said: "Wal, boys, when did you come?"
The captain said, "Do you know them kids, John?" John says: "Come over here, boys, and I'll introduce you to the captain." We walked over. John said: "This here is preacher Miller's boy over at Petersburg. And this here is the son of States Attorney Kirby. You know Hardy Kirby." The captain said "Yes." John went on, "Of course you do." And then the captain says: "I hired 'em to peel potatoes; they're goin' to St. Louis with me." "Is that so?" said John. "Well, they're good boys, and of course you'll fotch 'em back when you get through with 'em." "I don't know," says the captain, "I may sell 'em in St. Louis—or adopt 'em. I ain't got no boys of my own, and if they prove all right, good workers, I may keep 'em for good." John laughed. Kept laughin' at everything that was said. And finally they drank more beer and all talked together; and the old feller that was dancin' sat down, lit a fine cigar, and began to tell about New York. It turned out he was the fish commissioner and lived in Havaner; but he had traveled everywhere and was a regular gentleman. And finally he says to the captain—"Sing the 'Missouri Harmony.'" "I will," says the captain, "if John'll play the tune." So John played it and the captain sang.
I forgot to say that I can't remember nothin', or commit anything to memory. But I never see such a boy as Mitch. He could learn anything, and that's how I happen to write these songs down here. He wrote 'em out for me afterwards and handed 'em to me. Well, this is what the captain sang:
When in death I shall calm recline, O bear my heart to my mistress dear.
Tell her it lived on smiles and wine Of brightest hue while it languished here.
Bid her not shed one tear of sorrow, To sully a heart so brilliant and light,
But balmy drops of the red grape borrow To bathe the relict from morn till night.
He sang it in kind of a sing song. Then John kept tellin' stories and fiddlin'; and finally he struck up a tune that was more lively than any, and the white-haired gentleman got up and danced faster and gracefuler than ever. Then John told a story. Everybody was laughin'. By this time the captain had Mitch on his knee, and you never did see such fun and good friendship; and a man who'd been keepin' quiet except for laughin' pulled me over to him and said, "You look like your dad. Your dad is the best man in this county, the best lawyer and the best friend. You be as good as your dad, and you're all right." I said, "Yes, sir," and was almost too happy to live.
Then the party kind a broke up. The old gentleman was talkin' to a fat man, who was pretty full of beer; and John was talkin' to the captain. Mitch and me just sat there and watched. Then I heard John ask the captain, "When you goin' to pull out?" "Not till Saturday," said the captain. "To-morrow or next day we may pull up to Copperas Creek; but we won't go back till Saturday." "Wal," says John, "is that so? Not till a Saturday?"
Mitch and me thought it was time to start to help with the dinner. So we went away and the party seemed to break up. We got the potatoes peeled and finally everything was cooked and all ready, and we was about to help wait on the table as before, when one of the waiters came in and said, "The captain wants to see you, boys." So we went in and there was the captain at his own table with John and Col. Lambkin, and all the rest of the men just ready to eat. And the captain says, "Here, boys, come and sit here with us." So then we were at the captain's table, with the waiters waitin' on us and lookin' kind of funny to see what had happened and wonderin' why.
And at the dinner table John says: "Why don't you boys come home with me, and then come back here a Saturday, and catch the boat? You must visit me some time and why not now? There never was a better time."
The captain says: "That's the thing to do, boys. We're goin' up to Copperas Creek and there ain't a thing in that. And you can go over and have your visit, and John will bring you back. Your job will be waitin' for you, and I promise you I'll take you to St. Louis and back to Havaner."
"No," said Mitch, "we'll stick to our jobs." Then the captain says, "You're fired till Saturday. I won't have you around till Saturday. There's goin' to be an Odd Fellows' Excursion, and it's no place for boys, and so you can make the best of it."
Then John said, "That's the thing to do, boys. I'll play the fiddle for you; Aunt Caroline will be glad to see you, and we'll have a good time."
Mitch looked disappointed, but there we were. We couldn't stay on the boat, there was nothin' to do in Havaner, so we gave up.
And by and by we left the boat, saying good-by to the captain, and went with John over into town, and down to the court house to get his team to go home.
John went to the rack to untie his horses and Mitch and me was standin' off waitin' to get in the wagon. Mitch said in kind of a low voice, "This don't seem right to me. I've got a kind of feelin' we'll not come back; that we'll miss the boat or somethin'. I feel a little as if we're being tricked."
I said, "No, Mitch, how can it be? You don't think John Armstrong came on purpose to the boat to catch us, do you?"
"No," said Mitch.
"He couldn't know we're on the boat. Well, then, where's the trick?"
Said Mitch, "Well, he knows our pas, he knows we'd started for St. Louis, and maybe just as a good turn to our pas, he fixed it with the captain to get us off the boat and bring us to his house."
Says I, "That can't be, Mitch. In the first place, he's wanted us to visit him for a long while, and in the next place, what'd be the use of him interferin' this way and takin' us to his house? He knows we could steal out of the window to-night, or walk away to-morrow mornin'. It ain't only six miles from his house to Havaner, and we can be back here by Saturday in spite of anything."
Mitch says, "Yes, but suppose he telegraphs or somethin' to our folks, and they come and get us."
"Well," says I, "if we see any sign of that, we'll sneak. Besides, John don't know enough to telegraph. He never telegraphed in his life. And the mail is too slow. I tell you what let's do, let's stay with John to-night and to-morrow after dinner wander off and come back here."
"That's it," said Mitch. "That is what we'll do. But anyway you take it the jig's up if they want it to be. Because they could catch us on the boat if they wanted to. John knows we're goin' on the boat, and if he peaches, why, we're caught."
John backed up the horses and we got in and so started off. Then Mitch began to feel John out. As we passed the depot he says: "I suppose you don't want to telegraph Aunt Caroline (that was John's wife) that we're comin' and you've got company."
"Telegraph," says John, with a chuckle and a giggle. "Why, I never sent a telegram in my life, and besides Aunt Caroline always has enough to eat, and we have two spare beds, so what's the use of wastin' money on a telegram?"
I nudged Mitch. A part of the way to John's we went along the edge of a place where nothin' growed at all. There wasn't a weed or a tree. John said it was the Mason County desert, and onct he got over in there and got lost, that there wasn't a livin' thing in there, and not a crow ever flew over it.
And then we came to Oakford—not as nice a town as Bobtown, the houses not so white, and not the same well-kept look. But John had a fine house, not very big, nice and comfortable with a big yard, and a brick walk and flowers. It was right at the edge of town and his farm went way off clear to the woods.
Aunt Caroline just said howdy and smiled and went into the kitchen; and John went to the sink and washed out of a pan and we did, and then we had supper; the most jellies I ever saw, and wild honey, and cold ham, and fried chicken, and several kinds of bread, and cake and berries and cream. So after that Mitch and me was about caught up on meals. John talked all the time at supper and swore a good deal, about every other word, not the worst swearin', but regular swearin'; and he kept tellin' one thing and then another about folks around the country, things that had happened. But all the time Aunt Caroline just set there and et and never said a word.
After supper John said he'd go over and get Vangy to play the organ and keep time for him. Says he, "You can't fiddle without a organ or somethin' to keep time. That warn't no fiddlin' on the boat." So John went out and that left us with Aunt Caroline, and she just cleaned up the dishes awful nice and orderly, but never said nothin'—not a word.
John was gone at least half an hour. He came in then and said Vangy would be over, then he went to a trunk and got out a Bible, and showed it to us. And says he, "Linkern read out of this, by God." That was the swear word he kept usin', and I don't like to use it, and won't again. But when I say John swore, you'll know what I mean. "Yes, sir (swear word), this is the Bible. It belongs (swear word) to old Aunt Sarie Rutledge (swear word), and I borrowed it off'n her to show your pa one time and never hain't took it back. Aunt Sarie is a relative of Jasper, the Sheriff (swear word)." So he put that back. Then he showed us a picture of Duff, his brother, which Linkern defended for murder, and a picture of one of the jurymen what let Duff off, and a picture of his mother's brother what was the greatest fiddler ever in the county. And he showed us Duff's discharge from the army which Linkern wrote, and a badge which Linkern had given to his mother onct. So then I said to John, "Did you ever see Mr. Linkern?"
Said John, "Lots of times (swear word). I heard him make a speech over at Havaner against Douglas. Douglas warn't there, but it were agin him (swear word)."
Then Mitch said, "How did he look?" "Wal (swear word)," says John, "he was just sottin' on the platform and he looked like he didn't have no sense, kind a dull; and his legs was so long that his jints stuck up above his ears like a grasshopper with his jints above his back. But when he got up to talk, he changed. His face got lively like, and he took everybody right off their feet."
So I, bein' the States Attorney's son, was interested in Duff's case, and I asked John if he heard the trial.
"No, sir," said John, "I didn't. I had the ager and couldn't go. You see he warn't tried at Havaner, but down at Beardstown, and the only time I went thar was when I went to see Duff with my mother, while Duff was thar in jail."
"Did you see him?" asked Mitch. "Yes (swear word)," said John, "he was thar. He was sottin' thar, him and another feller. Thar they was in jail. And I said to Duff, 'What's he in thar fur?' Said Duff: 'Stole one of them Shanghai roosters (swear word) wuth five dollars; stand on thar feet and pick corn off'n a table like that.'"
"How long was Duff in jail?" asked Mitch.
"Well, sir (swear word) he must have been thar most of the fall. I don't recollect; and then they had the trial and Linkern cleared him with a almanac."
"How's that?" says I.
"Wal (swear word), they was witnesses that swore they seed Duff hit this feller with a sling-shot, and they seed it because the moon was bright right at the meridian. And Linkern got every witness to go over it again and say the moon was at the meridian, and that's why they seed Duff hit this feller with a sling-shot; and after Linkern had got it all clear by cross questionin' these witnesses, then he pulled out a almanac, and says to the judge and the jury, 'Look here.' They looked and saw that the moon warn't at the meridian, but was a settin' (swear word); and so they couldn't have seed Duff hit him with a slung-shot. And Linkern put a feller on the stand and axed him 'Did you ever make a slung-shot?' 'Yes,' says he. 'Tell me how,' says Linkern. 'Wal,' says he, 'I took a egg shell and sunk one half of it in the sand; then I melted some zinc and lead and poured it into the egg shell, and made two of these; then I took a old boot and cut out some leather and sewed the leather around these two halves with squirrel's hide; then I made a loop for the wrist of squirrel's hide'; and then Linkern says, 'Look at this.' He handed a slung-shot to the feller; and says, 'Take your knife and rip it open.' So he did, and there fell out the two halves molded in this here egg shell, and so the slung-shot belonged to this feller and didn't belong to Duff at all. And they had found it thar where the fight was; but every one fit that night (swear word). You see they were a-holdin' a camp meetin', and about a mile off thar was a bar where they sold drinks, and they'd go and get religion a little (swear word), and then go and get some drinks, and so on back and forth, and so they fit. And this here feller that was killed and Duff fit here onct right in Oakford, because he pulled Duff off'n a barl where he was sleepin', and Duff got up and whooped him."
By this time Vangy came in. And Mitch was in the best of spirits. I never heard him laugh so much.
Vangy sat down to the organ, and John tuned up his fiddle, and they started. Aunt Caroline came in then and sot down and began to knit, but didn't say nothin'. John just drew a few times with his bow and then he said: "This here is called 'Pete McCue's Straw Stack,' named after old Peter McCue who lived down by Tar Creek. They had a dance thar and the fellers hitched their horses clost to a straw stack in the lot and when they came out the horses had et all the straw stack up. So they had been a playin' this here tune and after that they called it 'Pete McCue's Straw Stack.'"
Then John played it, tappin' his foot, and Vangy just made the organ talk. She was as thin as a killdeer, and looked consumptive, but she knew how to play the organ, you bet.
Then John began to laugh and he says, "Thar was a feller over near Salt Creek named Clay Bailey, that tried to play the fiddle, but he never played but one tune, and they called it 'Chaw Roast Beef.' He warn't a very big man, but round chested and stout, and he came here onct when Porky Jim Thomas was runnin' a saloon here, before he moved to Bobtown. Wal, this here Clay Bailey was in thar havin' some drinks with the boys, and all at onct a feller came in with his coat tail all chawed off, and lookin' pretty blue and he said a bull dog had come fur him. Clay would fight anything. And so he says to the stranger, 'You buy the drinks, and I'll go out and whoop the bull.' 'All right,' says the stranger. So he bought the drinks and Clay went out, follered by the hull crowd. The bull belonged to one of the Watkinses and was in a wagon watchin'; so Clay went right up to the wagon and the bull jumped for him. Clay caught him by the ear and held him off with one hand and pounded him over the heart with his fist, till the bull gave up. Then Clay flung him down like, and the bull got up and run about 40 rods down to a walnut tree and stood there and just bellered as if the moon was shinin'. Now, Vangy, 'Chaw Roast Beef.'"
So John played that and Mitch was rollin' from side to side in his chair and laughin' fit to kill. Then John said, "I s'pose you boys never seed no platform dancin'." We never had and wanted to know what it was. "Wal (swear word)," says John, "they put up a platform and one after another they get up on the platform and dance, and when they get real earnest they take their shoes off. Jim Tate who went out to Kansas was the best platform dancer we ever had around here. He came over one night to Old Uncle Billy Bralin's whar my uncle was a fiddlin'—the best fiddler they ever was here. And Jim heard him and got to jigglin' and finally he looked in the room and he says, 'Clar the cheers out, I'm goin' to take off my shoes and come down on her.' So they did, and while he was dancin' his foot went through one of the holes in the puncheon floor and skinned one of his shins. Up to then they had always called this piece 'Shoats in the Corn,' but after that they called it 'Skinnin' your Shins.' Go ahead, Vangy." Then he played "Skinnin' your Shins," and after that "Rocky Road to Jordan," "Way up to Tar Creek," "A Sly Wink at Me," "All a Time a Goin' with the High Toned Gals," and a lot more that I can't remember, and between every piece he'd tell a story.
Then John began to get tired, and it was about ten o'clock. So Vangy went home, and we all went to bed. And after Mitch and me got in bed, I heard him laughin' to himself, and I says, "What's the matter, Mitch?" And he says, "This is the funniest thing I ever see, I wouldn't have missed this for anything." Then we fell asleep.
The next mornin' Aunt Caroline had the wonderfulest breakfast you ever saw: waffles, honey, bacon, eggs, and John just et and talked and kept swearin'. And Aunt Caroline sat lookin' down at her plate eatin' and didn't say nothin'—just looked calm and happy.
John seemed to have some kind of business that mornin'. Anyway he went away for a bit and left us to ourselves lookin' about the place and goin' over some photographs Aunt Caroline had. By and by Vangy came in and John. And John got out the fiddle again, to play a piece he called "Injun Puddin'" and so the fun was startin' all over again. There was a knock at the door and Aunt Caroline went and opened it, and there stood my pa and Mr. Miller. "Well, you young pirates," said my pa, as he came in the room, "you're goin' down to see Tom Sawyer, are you, and run away from your home?"
"They got a job on the steamboat, Hard," said John. "You can't interfere with that, you know." And he laughed and swore.
"I'll get a switch to you, young man," my pa went on. "Mitchie, what makes you do this?" asked Mr. Miller. "It does beat the world. Your mother is worried almost to death."
Mitch looked down. I was still because I was scared. Pretty soon everything got jolly again. John fiddled some more. They all told stories, the funniest you ever heard, and everybody laughed. I saw Aunt Caroline smile clear across her face. Then we had a grand dinner. And when the train came in, my pa and Mr. Miller put us on and took us back to Petersburg.
Of course John Armstrong tricked us, but when did he do it—and how? I don't know.
Everything seemed changed now. My ma wasn't the same, the house wasn't the same; Myrtle was talkin' about girls and boys I didn't know. Maud Fisher had come back from Chicago where she had visited and Myrtle was goin' up the hill to see her. Maud lived in a great brick house that looked like a castle. Her pa was one of the richest men in town and they lived splendid.
And Mitch was changed too. We hadn't found the treasure; we had been cheated out of our trip to St. Louis, for they wouldn't let us go back to Havaner to get the boat; we hadn't seen Tom Sawyer. And Mr. Miller had told Mitch a lot of stories of Shakespeare and had set him to readin', and Mitch had read a lot of it, and told me about Hamlet who lost his father, and killed his step-father, and saw his mother drink poison; and had lost his girl too, and lost everything. And Mitch says, "Pa says that is about the way. This life is sorrow, you always lose, you never win, and if you do, it's worse'n if you lost; and you're just bein' put through a kind of schoolin' for somethin' else. For if you have trouble, then you are made wise and kind, maybe, or at least you can be; and so there's something after this life where you can use your mind as it has been made better by this life."
Well, you see, I couldn't believe this. How about John Armstrong and Col. Lambkin, and the captain? Warn't they happy? Wasn't my grandma happy and my grandpa? There must be a way. Some folks must have luck, even if others don't; so I did my best to cheer Mitch up.
But now we was separated a good deal. For to watch me, pa took me to his office where I had to sit all day mostly, and tell where he was, if I knew; and run errands, go over to the clerk's office for papers. And just now there was a good deal to do for court was comin' on, and they were getting ready to try Temple Scott for killin' Joe Rainey.
At last the judge came. He came right in to see my pa. He lived way off in Jerseyville in a different county. I don't believe Mitch and me was ever any gladder to see each other than pa and the judge. They talked politics and cases and about makin' speeches to juries; and they agreed that when you get up to talk you don't know what you are goin' to say, but you get started and you know when you get the swing, and are really cuttin' ice. So the judge was invited to our house for dinner, and ma bought a new lamp for the center table on account of it; and Myrtle was all dressed up, and so was I. And ma put on a lot of airs, stretchin' things a lot about her folks and her do'n's in society and pa's wonderful speeches—some the judge hadn't heard. And pa told some stories that I had heard him tell before; and when the judge spoke, every one was quiet and scared like, even pa seemed a little embarrassed. The judge asked me if I was goin' to be a lawyer, and I said no, a steamboat captain. Then they all laughed and pa said: "There's a story about that that I'll tell you, judge." Then I blushed and Myrtle giggled and ma looked mad, because she was really ashamed of me.
And finally the court opened. I went up to see what it was like. There sat the judge on a high seat. And different lawyers would get up and say, "Docket number 8020" or somethin'. And the judge would turn over the leaves of a book and say, "Kelly vs. Graves," or somethin' and wait. Then the lawyer would say, "Default of Nora Kennedy" or somethin'. Then the judge would write, and so on. And my pa acted as if he didn't know the judge at all. He always said "your honor," and the judge didn't call him Hardy like he did at our house, but always Mr. Kirby. Nobody could tell they knew each other.
The town was chuck full of people. Watermelon rinds was all over the court house yard and there was lots of fights and men gettin' drunk; and after a few days, the court room was full of people watchin' the court proceedings. It was lots better than a theater, though not so good as a circus. I got hold of Mitch finally and he came and sat with me. He got interested after a while, and whatever he got interested in, he watched and liked better than anybody. But one day when we was there my pa got up and told the judge he was ready to try Temple Scott for killin' Joe Rainey. Then a little man, wearin' nose glasses, awful cunnin' lookin', with a soft voice, which he could make deep when he wanted to, said he was ready. He was Major Abbott, Temple Scott's lawyer. And so the case started.
It went on several days with lots of witnesses testifyin'—all the people who practiced "Pinafore" that night told about hearing the shots. And this little lawyer whose name was Major Abbott, as I said, asked every one, "How many shots did you hear?" Most of 'em said two; but some said they couldn't remember; and he made some of 'em say they heard three shots. They had found two bullets in Joe Rainey, and the point seemed to be that the other shot was fired by Joe Rainey; for pa said to me one day when we was walkin' home at noon that the defense was that Joe Rainey fired at Temple Scott first.
Then Major Abbott cross-questioned the witnesses about whether they saw Joe Rainey come into the house and go out just before he was killed. And most of 'em said yes. And then he tried to get 'em to say that they saw Joe Rainey go up-stairs and come down and go out; but none of 'em would say this. Then he'd ask 'em if they didn't hear Joe Rainey say, "Where's my pistol?" speakin' to his wife; and if she didn't say, "You can't have it," and take hold of him, and if he didn't pull away from her and go up-stairs and come down; and then if they didn't hear a shot as if it was fired from the porch followed by two shots. But he couldn't get the witnesses to say this, though he asked a lot of questions and worried 'em and tangled 'em about different things. And once in a while my pa would say, "I object, your honor." And the judge would say mostly "sustained," and Major Abbott would say, "Your honor will allow me an exception." "Let it be noted," said the judge, and so on.
All the time Mitch kept twistin' in his seat and sayin', "He's tryin' to get 'em to lie. That's what he's doin'."
Mrs. Rainey was in the court, sittin' behind the railing. Temple Scott sat behind Major Abbott at the trial table. My pa was on the other side, and Sheriff Rutledge kept runnin' in and out, bringin' in witnesses. They had Temple Scott's pistol there with two chambers empty, and the bullets which had been taken out of Joe Rainey's body, the same size as in Temple Scott's pistol. And they had a statement which Joe Rainey had made just before he died in which he swore that he didn't have no pistol, that he came just inside the door, thinkin' he would go to bed and leave Temple Scott, and then he came right out in order to quiet him and tell him he didn't mean anything and was his friend.
"That's the truth," says Mitch, "and I'll bet on it." This statement of Joe Rainey said that they had been playing cards and was friendly till they got out on the street, when he asked Scott not to come around his house any more, that he liked him and could be friends with him, but he didn't want him to visit any more with Mrs. Rainey. Mitch says: "I heard pa and ma talk about this and they said Temple Scott wanted to marry Mrs. Rainey." Well, that seemed to kind of get in the case without anybody testifyin' to it, exactly. The court room seemed to breathe that idea, and on the streets it was talked.
Finally Major Abbott stated his side of the case, and he put Mrs. Rainey on the witness stand, and she said Joe Rainey had come in the house and asked for his pistol, that she took hold of him and said, "You mustn't get your pistol," that he tore away from her and went up-stairs; and came runnin' down, that he went out, that she heard a shot, and then later two shots of a different sound, that they all rushed to the door and found Joe Rainey lyin' on the porch floor bleedin' and unconscious.
And my pa cross-questioned her and she rared up and said that Joe Rainey had brought Temple Scott to her house in the first place and introduced him and wanted him to come, and had him to meals, and that this talk of her carin' for Temple Scott was a base slander and the work of mean enemies. And that no gentleman would hint of such a thing. And as far as her testifyin' at all in the case, she wanted to see justice done, and to do it she went through this disagreeable experience, which was enough to kill anybody. Finally pa asked: "Where is Joe Rainey's pistol?" And she got mad and said, "I don't know where it is—nobody knows."
"Nobody knows," my pa asked quiet like.
"Nobody that I know of," she answered.
"Oh," said my pa.
Then Major Abbott sneered: "You got what you didn't want then." And the judge said: "Gentlemen, you must be courteous to each other. There has been entirely too much personalities in this case and it must stop."
Major Abbott got up to argue. The judge says: "There's nothing before the court, Major Abbott. Proceed with the case."
And Major Abbott said again: "Your honor will allow me an exception."
"Let it be noted," said the judge, and so on.
Other witnesses testified for Temple Scott and it all came to the same thing. There was three shots, and some testified that Joe Rainey had threatened Temple Scott. So pa made these witnesses or most of 'em say that they had been threatened too by Joe Rainey, and didn't believe he meant it, and that they warn't afraid of him. Finally Major Abbott got up and said: "We had a witness who saw Joe Rainey's pistol lying by the side of the porch, where it had evidently fallen out of his hand. But he has disappeared and we can't find where he is. With that out of the case, the defense rests."
Mitch began to get more and more nervous and to kind of talk to himself.
Then the judge asked, "Major Abbott, did you subpoena this witness?"
"No," said Major Abbott. "We should have done so, I confess, and I intended to. But I talked to him, he seemed entirely willing to testify; nevertheless I intended to subpoena him the first of the month and got ready to do so, and found that he had disappeared."
"What's his name?" said my pa real quick.
"His name," said Major Abbott in a deep voice and very calm, "is Harold Carman." That was the man who was takin' the part of one of the sailors in "Pinafore"; and sure enough he had disappeared and no one knew where.
So Major Abbott sat down in a satisfied way. Mitch says, "Why don't Temple Scott go on and tell that Joe Rainey shot at him?" "He don't have to," says I; "pa says no man has to testify against hisself, and you can't criticize him for it."
"Against hisself," said Mitch. "Why if he, Joe Rainey, shot at him first, he'd be testifyin' for hisself, and not against hisself. He darn't testify," says Mitch. "It's a lie. Joe Rainey didn't shoot at him. I can just see right through this case."
I believed Mitch, for besides everything else, he was the smartest boy I ever knew.
Then the judge asked pa—"Any rebuttal?" And pa says, "Just a few things, your honor, but it's now ten minutes to twelve, and near adjournin' time, and if your honor will indulge me, I'd like to have court adjourn now till one o'clock."
So the court said very well, and Sheriff Rutledge adjourned the court, and all the people began to go out.
And then I see for the first time that mornin' that Mr. Miller was in the court room. He rose up as my pa came down the aisle and spoke to him, and they walked away together and up the hill, goin' home together with Mitch and me follerin'. When we got to our house pa says, "I'm goin' up to Mr. Miller's for dinner, you tell your ma." And they all went away together, Mr. Miller, my pa, and Mitch.
I got back to the court room about ten minutes to one and only a few was there. It was awful interestin' now, and I couldn't keep away or hardly wait for the next thing. Pretty soon Mitch came in and set by me. His hair was combed slick, and he acted terribly quiet. Then the judge came and my pa and court was opened. Pretty soon Mr. Miller came in and sat with Mitch and me and after a while Mrs. Miller, who hadn't been there before, and my ma was with her. The court room was so full you couldn't breathe.
Then my pa got up and began to talk and he said he had some evidence which was competent, but needed to be explained first to the judge, and he thought they'd better go into the judge's room and talk about it first. So the judge, my pa, and Major Abbott went to the judge's room and closed the door, and the jury just waited and the audience began to whisper and I looked across the room and saw John Armstrong. Everybody was there except grandpa and grandma, Willie Wallace, my uncle and maybe a few others.
After a while the judge, my pa and Major Abbott came out of the judge's room. The judge got on the bench and said, "You may proceed, Mr. States Attorney."
My pa turned around and looked down in the audience, and said in a loud voice, "Mitchell Miller, take the witness stand, please."
I was knocked over. Here was Tom Sawyer right over again. Mitch was goin' to testify. What on earth did he know? He'd never told me a word.
Mitch was dreadful pale, and so was Mr. Miller. But Mr. Miller says, "Come on, my boy, and may God help you."
So they got up, and Mr. Miller walked with Mitch inside the railin' and stood there, very sad, until Mitch took the witness chair, then he walked back and sat down inside the railing.
All the jury was craning their necks now and the court room was so still that the tickin' of the clock was scary.
It seemed as Mitch was only twelve, they had to ask him about whether he knew what he was doin'. So my pa began this a way, after Mitch was sworn.
"What is your name?"
"How old are you?"
"Twelve years old."
"Do you understand the obligations of an oath?"
"I do, sir."
"What are they?"
"They are to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."
"And if you don't tell the truth, what will happen to you?"
"I'll be punished."
"You believe in God, do you, Mitchie?" asked my pa in a quieter voice.
"I do," said Mitch.
"And a hereafter."
"And that you'll be punished in the hereafter if you don't tell the truth?"
"That's leading, your honor," interrupted Major Abbott.
"Yes," said the judge.
"Very well," said my pa.
"What else will happen to you if you don't tell the truth, Mitchell?"
"I'll be punished in the hereafter."
"Cross-examine," said my pa.
Then Major Abbott began in kind of a sneerin' voice.
"So you think you'll be punished in the hereafter?"
"Why wouldn't I be for swearin' a man's life away?"
"For swearin' a man's life away," repeated Major Abbott, kind of stunned.
"That's what I'm obliged to do," said Mitch.
"Well, one thing at a time, my boy," said the Major, a little friendlier. "Tell me now who told you about the obligations of an oath."
"I've read about it," said Mitch.
"In Blackstone's Commentaries."
"Where did you ever hear of Blackstone's Commentaries?"
"First out at Old Salem, where Linkern lived."
The jury sat up straighter than ever.
"Who told you?"
"An old man."
"What's his name?"
"I don't know."
"When was that?"
"This summer, about a month ago."
"Well, did you ever read Blackstone's Commentaries?"
"Yes, sir, some."
"In Mr. Kirby's office."
"The States Attorney?"
"Since that old man told me."
"How did he happen to be talking about Blackstone's Commentaries?"
"He told me that Linkern found Blackstone's Commentaries in a barl."
There was a titter in the court room.
"Did you believe him?"
"What were you doin' out there?"
"Diggin' for treasure."
"Oh, like Tom Sawyer?"
"And so now you're testifyin' like Tom Sawyer?"
"Don't you dream a good deal, my boy?"
"I don't know. I think a lot."
"You think, eh? What about, for instance?"
"Well, tell me a few things you think about."
"The world, life, books, Shakespeare."
"I suppose you've heard your father talk Shakespeare?"
"And so you think of that?"
"I've read lots of it, too."
"Uh, huh! Can you tell me the name of the play where there is a fencer?"
"Yes, sir. I've committed to memory the speech of the ghost."
"Well, this isn't a theater, Mitchell, so you don't need to recite."
"But now tell me, has your father talked to you?"
"Did you get from him this idea that you would be punished in the hereafter if you didn't tell the truth?"
"Yes, and not exactly either. I believe that."
"Did he talk to you to-day?"
"What did he say?"
"He told me to do my duty, that doing my duty was more'n findin' treasure; that Linkern did his duty; that this was Linkern's county right here, and that no boy who was raised here in this town could fail to do his duty without insultin' the memory of Linkern."
"How did he come to say all that to you?"
"Because I'd stood this as long as I could. I've been in trouble about this all summer, I really started out to see Tom Sawyer, partly to get away from this, and I was troubled most of the time. And I sat here in the court room and heard the witnesses. And at noon to-day I told my pa what I knew, and he prayed with me, and told me I had to testify and that I must tell the truth, and if I didn't I'd be punished, and even if I kept still, I'd be punished and here I am."
"So here you are. Well, now to return a little, don't you have all kinds of visions and dreams, Mitchie?"
"Wait," says my pa, "that don't go to the witness' right to testify, but only whether he's to be believed after he does testify."
"Yes," said the judge.
Then Major Abbott took another exception. There were some more questions, and finally the judge said Mitch could tell his story. So my pa settled down to business, and the jury waited anxious like. And this is the way it went.
"Where were you on the night Joe Rainey was killed?"
"Up in a tree in his yard."
"What were you doin' there?"
"Listenin' to the music."
"Were you alone?"
"You chum with my boy, don't you?"
"Do you know where he was that night?"
"Out to his grandpa's."
"How did you happen to be in that yard?"
"I was lonesome and I wanted to hear the music."
"Well, you go on now in your own way and tell what you saw and heard."
"I was lookin' from the tree through the window into the room. I could see all of you. You was singin' the 'Merry, Merry Maiden.' Just then two men came up the sidewalk. I got back of some thick limbs, limbs thick with leaves, for fear they'd see me and say something and do something. Pretty soon I saw it was Joe Rainey and Temple Scott."
"What were they saying to each other?"
"They was walkin' arm in arm, friendly like. And I heard Joe Rainey say: 'I've always been a good friend of yours, Temp, and I want to be still. But you mustn't come to my house any more, especially when I'm not there. You know why, and I want you to promise.' Then Mr. Scott said, 'You're always bringin' that up, why do you? It gets me mad.' Then Joe Rainey says, 'My wife don't want you around, as far as that goes.' And Temp said, 'You don't know what you're talkin' about.' And Joe Rainey says, 'I do, and I'll go in and get her now and she'll come out here and say to you just what I say.' 'No,' says Temp, 'you'll make her say it; she must say it of her own free will.' They began to quarrel then."
"Don't say quarrel, tell us what they said."
"Well, Temp said, 'You're a liar, and nobody believes what you say.' And Joe Rainey said, 'You're another liar, and if you didn't have a pistol on you, I'd take it out of you right now. I'm goin' in for my wife.' Then he tore away from Mr. Scott and went into the house, but came right out again, and Mr. Scott began to shoot at Joe Rainey, and he fell down on the porch."
"Then what happened?"
"Then everybody in the room screamed. And somebody came out and some others and picked up Joe Rainey and carried him into the house."
"What did you do?"
"I still stayed in the tree."
"Well, I was kind of scared—then I wanted to see what they did with Joe Rainey. I thought they might take him into the room where they had been singin' and I could see him."
"Then what happened?"
"Well, while I was waiting, about ten minutes maybe, I heard some one coming from the back of the house. It was a woman."
"What did she do?"
"She came up by the porch, knelt down kind of and ran back to the rear of the house."
"What did you do then?"
"I waited a few minutes then I got down out of the tree and went over to the porch and picked up what the woman had left there."
"What was it?"
"Have you got the pistol?"
"Will you hand it to me?"
Mitch took a pistol out of his pocket and handed it to my pa.
Then Mrs. Rainey, who was still sittin' in the court room, fainted dead away. And some women and a doctor came up and carried her out. Temple Scott was white as death, and was leanin' his head on his hand and lookin' down.
And then my pa went on.
"Where has this pistol been since that night?"
"In Montgomery's woods."
"In a cigar box."
"Why did you bury it?"
"So it wouldn't rust—so as to hide it."
"Do you know who the woman was who put the pistol there?"
"Then what did you do?"
"I still stayed in the tree."
"Did anything else happen?"
"In just a few minutes after Mrs. Rainey came out and left the pistol, some men came out, one of 'em was Harold Carman, and they started to look right by the edge of the porch. And one man says, 'Where is it?' and another says, 'I don't see it,' and another says, 'Is this the place?' And so they looked all around and then went back into the house."
"Then what did you do?"
"I waited until everything was all right, then I climbed down out of the tree, and got the pistol, and ran. And so I kept the pistol for a few days; but I got worried havin' it around, so I put it in a cigar box and went out to Montgomery's woods and buried it."
"And is this pistol you produced here, the same pistol you picked up, and buried?"
"That's all," said my pa.
Then the judge said, "We'll suspend here for a little while." Mitch started to leave the witness chair, but the judge said, "No, you must stay where you are. You stand by him, Mr. Sheriff."
Then there was a kind of noise of the people in the room changin' their seats and talkin'. And the word went around that Mrs. Rainey had died.
That's what had happened. She had died. Her heart went back on her. But my pa said they kept it away from the jury. And Mitch kept sittin' there lookin' pretty tired. The jury wasn't allowed to leave; but just sat there. And they passed 'em water. And the judge had gone out, probably to see Mrs. Rainey. My pa went too, and Major Abbott. Then they all came back together, and the judge got on the bench, and said to go on.
Major Abbott stood up and took off his nose glasses and began to kind of shake 'em with his hand, and he looked at Mitch, and Mitch looked at him, kind of scared, I thought. And then Major Abbott began.
"When did you first tell this story you've just told here?"
"Never before," says Mitch.
"Did you talk to the State's Attorney about it?"
"Then you did tell it before you told it here."
"What made you say you'd never told it before, Mitchie?"
"I thought you meant in any court."
"Did you tell it to any one before you told it to the State's Attorney?"
"Uh, huh. And did you tell it to any one else?'
"At no time?"
"At no time between the night that Joe Rainey was killed and until you told your father this morning?"
"Why did you keep it to yourself?"
"For a lot of reasons."
"Didn't you know it was your duty under the law to tell what you claimed to know?"
"I kind of thought so."
"So then you were neglecting your duty and knew that you were?"
"And didn't you know that when a case is tried, the witnesses for one side are all heard together, and then the witnesses for the other?"
"Well, I know that now."
"And that it's the exception for a witness to be heard after one side of the case, the side he belongs to, has closed its testimony?"
"I know that now."
"And you waited until this case was practically over and then offered yourself?"
"You were never subpoenaed?"
"Not in this case."
"What case were you subpoenaed in?"
"Did you testify?"
"He killed hisself."
"And that let you out?"
"You've been reading a book called 'Tom Sawyer,' haven't you?"
"And he testified in a case and made a sensation?"
"And you're makin' a sensation?"
"I suppose so."
"Just like Tom Sawyer?"
"And you like it, don't you, Mitchie?"
"No, sir—I hate it."
"You're playin' the same part Tom Sawyer played?"
"I don't know."
"Did you hate it when you hid the pistol and didn't tell any one?"
"And did you hate it up to the time you told your father?"
"And you hate it now?"
"Yes, sir—but it's my duty."
Major Scott said to the judge, "I move to strike out those words 'but it's my duty.'" The judge said, "stricken out," then Major Abbott said:
"Just answer my question and don't volunteer anything. Now, Mitchie, isn't it true that you have been digging for treasure this summer like Tom Sawyer in the woods hereabouts, and at Old Salem?"
"And you expected to find it?"
"Yes, sir, and we did."
"Well, tell me."
"We found more'n $2,000 in Old Man Bender's cellar, after his house burned down."
"You're pretty rich, then?"
"No, the law took it away from us. It cheated to the county."
The audience broke into a laugh and the Sheriff called for order. Major Abbott resumed.
"But after that you went on hunting for treasure, you and the son of the State's Attorney?"
"Have you ever heard that this is a community where some people have visions?"
The judge said: "That's not proper, Major Abbott." And Major Abbott said: "I thought the remark not out of form, considering that the son of the distinguished State's Attorney has illusions too."
My pa said: "This is a good place to wake up, as you'll find." And Major Abbott said: "When is waking up time?"
My pa says, "Now."
Then the people laughed and the jury and the Sheriff rapped for order again.
"Well," said Major Abbott, "did you ever deceive anybody, Mitchie?"
Mitchie tugged with his hands, and said, "Yes, sir."
"You ran away to Havana and deceived your father, didn't you?"
"You told him you were going out to a farm to see your chum?"
"Yes, sir—and I did."
"But you were really on your way to Havana to run away to St. Louis, and see Tom Sawyer?"
"So you did deceive your father?"
"Lookin' at it that way, I did."
"And don't you know that there is and never was such a boy as Tom Sawyer?"
"I know there is."
"How do you know that?"
"I got a letter from him."
"How do you know he wrote it?"
"It was signed with his name."
"Don't you think somebody might deceive you by signing his name to a letter?"
"You never saw Tom Sawyer and never saw him write?"
"And isn't it true that you don't know a thing about it?"
"I can't believe anybody would sign his name to a letter. Besides I wrote him one and it reached him, because this letter was his answer."
"And are these your reasons for believing that Tom Sawyer lives and wrote to you?"
"Do you ever have dreams, Mitchie?"
"Didn't you dream about being up in this tree?"
"Do you sometimes see dreams when you're not asleep—when it's day?"
"Didn't you pass the house of Joe Rainey the next morning after he was killed?"
"I believe I did."
"And wasn't it then that you picked up this pistol?"
"Did you know what it means, if it was true, to see a pistol put down by a woman by this porch?"
"I think so."
"Well, I thought it meant that somebody wanted to make it appear that Joe Rainey had it."
"Well, then you knew it was your duty as a good boy to tell the authorities—to tell the State's Attorney?"
"Yes, sir, I know it now."
"Didn't you know it then?"
"In a kind of way, but I was so taken up with the treasure and going to see Tom Sawyer; and I had been subpoenaed in the Doc Lyon case and I was afraid I would be subpoenaed in this case and kept here so I couldn't go away."
"Your father is a preacher, isn't he?"
"And you have been raised to tell the truth and do your duty?"
"Yes, sir—but the flesh is weak."
"And the flesh pots are tempting," said Major Abbott right quick, "and you love treasure and love to live over the life of Tom Sawyer, a boy who never lived?"
"I can't answer that."
"Well, I love treasure, that is I love to find it—but I'm not livin' over Tom Sawyer's life any more than is natural."
"But it is true that you deceived your father, it is true you ran away, it is true you meant to run away from the court—all this is true?"
"And then all of a sudden you got this idea of duty?"
"Yes, sir—by reading 'Hamlet.'"
"Yes, sir, he kept foolin' with his duty, and it taught me not to."
"Did your father tell you to say that?"
"I thought the great example of Lincoln had influenced you?"
"Have you read 'Hamlet'?"
"Yes, sir, I have."
"Did he live, too?"
"Yes, sir—everybody lives that was ever wrote about."
And so Major Abbott kept cross-questioning Mitch until Mitch's mouth got dry and he had to have a glass of water. They handed it to him, and Major Abbott stood there like a hunter trappin' an animal. He was so cool and insultin' and kept comin' right after Mitch. Then he began again:
"Did you ever hear of Lincoln running away?"
"Or deceiving his father?"
"Or his mother?"
"His mother was dead."
"Or neglecting his duty in any way?"
"No, sir, that's the reason his example is so good."
"Well, why didn't you follow it from the beginning?"
"I told you why—I don't pretend to be good like Linkern."
"No, sir, sometimes I think I'm very bad."
"Don't you think you're very bad right now to come here and tell such a story as this, after the State has closed its case, after all these weeks?"
"And you knew, too, Mitchie, that it was common talk here that Joe Rainey tried to kill Temple Scott and shot at him first?"
"And all the time you were keeping this to yourself for the sake of treasure, and in order to have your own way, and run off?"
"And you knew that your chum's father was elected here to enforce the law, and that the guilty should be punished—all this you knew?"
"And yet you did all that you did—all that you have told?"
Well, then Major Abbott took another turn. He asked Mitch about the tree, whether it was a cherry tree or an oak tree, and Mitch didn't know. And he asked him how high up he was, and what the light was, and whether anybody passing couldn't see him in the tree; and how tall the woman was that put the pistol there, and how she was dressed; and where Temple Scott and Joe Rainey was when he first saw them, and if he knew Harold Carman, and what the names of the other people were who came out; and what he did the day before, and the week before, and the week after; and whether he didn't fight and whip Kit O'Brien, and everything you ever heard of from the time Mitch was a baby. It took all the afternoon. And when Mitch got off the witness stand he was kind of weak, and his pa went up to him and led him out, and then they locked up the jury to keep 'em from hearin' anything. And the case went over till the next morning.
And the next mornin' we was all down there as before. When court took up, Major Abbott and my pa and the judge went into the judge's room and nobody knew what was said, the same as before, and when they came out, Major Abbott said:
"Your honor, such unusual things have been done in this case that I am compelled to do some myself. I shall call the defendant to the witness stand." So he called Temple Scott and he went up and was questioned. He went on to say that Joe Rainey called him an awful name, and said, "I'll kill you, and I'll get my pistol." That Joe Rainey went in the house and came out and fired, and that he fired then, and that he saw Joe Rainey's pistol fall out of his hand right down by the porch somewheres; that then he gave himself up, and that's all he knew.
My pa cross-questioned him awful hard for about an hour, and asked him how he happened to have a pistol on him. He said he was afraid of Joe Rainey on account of the threats. And then my pa asked him why he didn't tell his story in the first place, and not wait till Mitch testified; and he said he didn't have to, the law didn't require him to. And so it went, and at last he got off the stand, and the case was closed. Then the speeches began. My pa talked calm like, reviewin' the evidence and so forth. And then Major Abbott got up and put a glass of water on the table and wiped his glasses off and said, "May it please your honor," and began.
He said it was a privilege to be here in the community that Lincoln had hallowed, and to stand in the very room he had stood in so many times, pleading for right and justice, and to plead for right and justice too. And that all his client wanted was justice; that he, as a defending lawyer, was as much sworn to support the law as the State's Attorney, and he wanted to see it enforced, and meant to have it enforced. And with the help of the court and the jury, it would be enforced; and his client who had been greatly wronged and barely escaped with his life would be freed, and could go back to his family, and be a respected member of the community.
Then after takin' up the case about the threats and everything, he began on Mitch.
"Think of it, gentlemen," he said, "here is a boy who waits until the case is closed, and we have a right to think that all they can bring against my client has been brought, and then this boy turns up to swear away his life. Let us be charitable, but let us be just. I must do my duty and to do it, I must speak. Here is a boy who confesses that he never told a word about what he saw until yesterday. He confesses that he kept it to himself in order that he might hunt treasure and run away from the orders of this court; he confesses that he has deceived his father, that he has been truant and bad. Yes, and above all, gentlemen, he confesses he has dreams and sees visions. He believes that a book, a story, is true; that its characters are real; that a boy named Tom Sawyer really lives; and he ran away to see him; and yet they ask you to believe such a boy in the face of this evidence. Why, you wouldn't convict a yellow dog on such testimony—you are men who know boys and know life and its affairs, and you know this story is the result of a pure dream. I'll be charitable; the boy is dreaming; he is a dreamy boy, an imaginative boy, a wonderful boy—but he is not to be believed. He never saw this at all. He was never in that tree. The chances are he picked up this pistol the next morning after passing there—after those people had come out and searched for the pistol—who had heard three shots, one of one report, and two of a different report. Why they didn't find the pistol, God only knows; and the witness who could testify to it is gone and here we are. And if you ask who the other witnesses are, I confess I don't know. We could have found their names if we could have talked with Harold Carman; but he's gone. And here we are, yes, in the community of Lincoln, but in a community where cowardly people and bad people live, like other communities. I say this because these other people, whoever they are, should have come forward and made themselves known. It would have been gracious if some people had come forward to tell the truth and save; and not leave it to a boy, and him alone, to come forward, and condemn and seek to destroy."
Then he drew an awful picture of the gallows and the penitentiary, and said, "Think of it. To be choked to death on the gallows. To be for years behind prison bars; or to go home to your old father and mother and be blessed, and be a blessing and get back your good name."
The jury cried, everybody nearly cried—everybody but Mitch who was sittin' by me. Mitch says: "He's the dandiest liar I ever heard. I almost admire him."
Then my pa got up and of all the speeches you ever heard! The shivers just ran up and down my back. And in about five minutes he had that jury so you could knock their eyes off with a stick. He had 'em right in his hand. And he said:
"You dare to disbelieve this boy—you dare to! What does it mean? Harold Carman ran away. But where are the others? Echo answers where. Major Abbott stands up here and says that he doesn't know their names, that if Harold Carman hadn't gone away, he'd know their names, and he gets before the jury, as if he were testifying, the fact that Harold Carman is away and what he would say if he were here. He slips that in; and it's improper and he knows it. He may be a good lawyer, and he is, but he isn't a witness in this case. And suppose you accept his word and this story—what do you say? You say that in this community—call it the community of Lincoln or of the devil, there are people so low, so murderous in their hearts, that they will allow a fellow being to be prosecuted and never come forward to tell what they know, which if they told it, would clear Temple Scott before this jury on the spot. And that isn't all, if you accept this story, you say that I haven't done my duty; you say that the man you elected to enforce the law will use his power to pervert the law; will fail to get all the facts before the jury. Because you couldn't imagine that there are such witnesses who came out looking for a pistol and I wouldn't have heard it and known about it. And if I did, and didn't get them, I wouldn't be fit to be your State's Attorney, or to hold any position of trust whatever. Where is Harold Carman? It doesn't make any difference where he is. Where are the others? They're not in this town or any other town. They're not any more in being than Tom Sawyer; but they are unlike Tom Sawyer, for as a piece of fiction he is real; and as fiction, these people are unreal and don't convince."
And then my pa said: "Now, let's take up the pistol. Both sides here, everybody agrees the pistol was there. The dispute is how it got there. Consider this: Why would they come out and begin to look for a pistol? Who told them to? Who told them to look by the porch? How did they know before they got there where to look first? You've seen this pistol here—it's Joe Rainey's pistol—and here is something my astute friend overlooked; one of the cartridges is out—the rest are there—one is clear out, not shot, exploded, with the shell left, but clear out. How did that happen? Do you believe Mitchie Miller did that? Are you going to ascribe to him such devilish cunning as that? No, gentlemen, the hand that placed that pistol by the porch slipped the cartridge out first. The hand that placed that pistol there depended upon the story of three shots being fired, and in the insanity of the moment, slipped out a cartridge; and for a very good reason. It couldn't be fired at such a time. There were only two shots, according to the fair weight of the evidence; there were two bullets found in Joe Rainey's body; and those two bullets were fired by the hand of Temple Scott."
As my pa said this, his voice rose up so you could hear him all over town. John Armstrong said you could have heard him clear to Oakford. The audience just shivered when pa said this.
"Let me go on," said pa. "Let us assume Joe Rainey comes in and runs up-stairs for his pistol and goes out. Well, they pick him up on the porch and no pistol is on him. Then they come out and look, but find no pistol. What would they have done? There would have been talk so loud about that missing pistol that even Major Abbott could have heard it—clear over to Jerseyville. Why was nothing said? Because the hand that put that pistol there, the woman that put it there was terrified. She was afraid that some one had seen her put it there; she knew some one picked it up that she didn't want to have pick it up—she was afraid it would turn up against her in the wrong hands. And she and this crowd—whoever they were—if there was one, were afraid to go on with the evidence they had started to manufacture. And this testimony of Mitchie Miller is every word true. You saw his face, you heard him, you know he wouldn't lie—and as for having visions—if he dreamed this, he would be fit for an asylum, and every one of you could see it—and he would be in an asylum."
Than pa just lit into Temple Scott. He said he was a coward, and he said when Joe Rainey asked him not to come to his house any more, it was his business to stay away. And that for himself he meant to stop lawlessness in the town. He intended to do his duty so fully that people would be afraid to break the law and take life. And then he said he had done his duty, and now the jury had to do theirs, and he left the case with them.
And then the judge read a lot of instructions to the jury and Sheriff Rutledge took 'em and locked 'em up and we sat and waited. They was out all that day and all that night and all the next day. And we waited. And finally toward evening they came in and told the judge they couldn't agree. It seems, so pa said, two of the jurors was for hangin' and five for the penitentiary, and five for acquittal. So they was discharged. Temple Scott was held to the next term of court for another trial, and court adjourned.
So court bein' over, the town was dull again and all deserted. Watermelon rinds and newspapers was all over the court house yard. Hardly any farmers was in town. The stores seemed empty. And Mitch was quieter than I ever saw him. He didn't look well. He was reading Shakespeare; and I saw him go by with Charley King and George Heigold. I began to feel that I was losin' him.
And one day my pa said, "How would you like to go to St. Louis on the boat? Your ma and Myrtle are goin' over to visit Aunt Fannie, and Delia is goin' to take a vacation, and I think I'll take you to St. Louis. I need a rest too. Mitch and his pa are going along. Colonel Lambkin has made up a party and John Armstrong will be along. It's the City of Peoria, the same boat you boys tried to run away on. So we're goin'. Come down town this afternoon and I'll get you a new suit and some shoes and a hat. Get Mitch too, and I'll fit him out for the trip."
So I got Mitch and he was almost beside himself, he was that happy. And we both got suits and shoes and hats. And the next morning took the passenger train for Havaner. When we got to Oakford, John Armstrong got in, and my pa was tickled to death to see him. John says: "They didn't convict that feller?" Pa says, "No." "Wal," says John, "are you goin' to try him again?" My pa says, "I don't know. It costs the county, and the board may lay down on me. But I'll prosecute him if they stand for the appropriation."
We were all sittin' together, for we turned the seats that a way. Mr. Miller and Mitch facin' us, my pa and me in one of the seats, and John Armstrong across the aisle, after he got on. And John says, "Wal, how about that boy down that a way? Whar does he live?"
"Who?" says I.
"That boy you was runnin' away to see. Tom Sawyer, warn't it?"
And Mr. Miller said, "If he's at home, we'll see him—but he's away a lot."
"He lives in St. Louis?" says John.
"No," says Mr. Miller, "but not far from there. That's right, ain't it, Mitchie?"
Mitch says, "It's not very far, just up the river maybe a hundred miles, at Hannibal."
"Are you goin' up thar?" says John.
"No," says my pa, "we expect to see him in St. Louis."
Then John says: "You had a big court this time with that murder trial and all." Pa says, "Yes." "It does beat the world about the murders and things around here. More'n what there used to be, 'pears to me."
Then Mr. Miller began to talk about the Civil War and he said: "It's a bad thing for the country and will be for a long time. We got rid of slavery, but we took on a lot of bad things while doin' it. You see it killed off so many real Americans, the old stock, and in a few years with all these foreigners brought in to work at the mines and mills, the blood'll get mixed. And ideas about America will get mixed; and the country will forget what it was, and what it was meant to be; and they'll pass new laws to take care of changes. And pretty soon you won't know the country. During the war we had to part with liberties to carry on the war; and pretty soon we'll part with liberties in order to manage these new stocks. And there's a lot of corruption in the country, people gettin' rich off'n the tariff, and that'll make trouble."