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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapters 21 to 25

Mark Twain

  Produced by David Widger


  By Mark Twain

  Part 5.


  IT was after sun-up now, but we went right on and didn't tie up. Theking and the duke turned out by and by looking pretty rusty; but afterthey'd jumped overboard and took a swim it chippered them up a good deal.After breakfast the king he took a seat on the corner of the raft, andpulled off his boots and rolled up his britches, and let his legs danglein the water, so as to be comfortable, and lit his pipe, and went togetting his Romeo and Juliet by heart. When he had got it pretty goodhim and the duke begun to practice it together. The duke had to learnhim over and over again how to say every speech; and he made him sigh,and put his hand on his heart, and after a while he said he done itpretty well; "only," he says, "you mustn't bellow out ROMEO! that way,like a bull--you must say it soft and sick and languishy, so--R-o-o-meo!that is the idea; for Juliet's a dear sweet mere child of a girl, youknow, and she doesn't bray like a jackass."

  Well, next they got out a couple of long swords that the duke made out ofoak laths, and begun to practice the sword fight--the duke called himselfRichard III.; and the way they laid on and pranced around the raft wasgrand to see. But by and by the king tripped and fell overboard, andafter that they took a rest, and had a talk about all kinds of adventuresthey'd had in other times along the river.

  After dinner the duke says:

  "Well, Capet, we'll want to make this a first-class show, you know, so Iguess we'll add a little more to it. We want a little something toanswer encores with, anyway."

  "What's onkores, Bilgewater?"

  The duke told him, and then says:

  "I'll answer by doing the Highland fling or the sailor's hornpipe; andyou--well, let me see--oh, I've got it--you can do Hamlet's soliloquy."

  "Hamlet's which?"

  "Hamlet's soliloquy, you know; the most celebrated thing in Shakespeare.Ah, it's sublime, sublime! Always fetches the house. I haven't got itin the book--I've only got one volume--but I reckon I can piece it outfrom memory. I'll just walk up and down a minute, and see if I can callit back from recollection's vaults."

  So he went to marching up and down, thinking, and frowning horrible everynow and then; then he would hoist up his eyebrows; next he would squeezehis hand on his forehead and stagger back and kind of moan; next he wouldsigh, and next he'd let on to drop a tear. It was beautiful to see him.By and by he got it. He told us to give attention. Then he strikes amost noble attitude, with one leg shoved forwards, and his arms stretchedaway up, and his head tilted back, looking up at the sky; and then hebegins to rip and rave and grit his teeth; and after that, all throughhis speech, he howled, and spread around, and swelled up his chest, andjust knocked the spots out of any acting ever I see before. This is thespeech--I learned it, easy enough, while he was learning it to the king:

  To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin That makes calamity of solong life; For who would fardels bear, till Birnam Wood do come toDunsinane, But that the fear of something after death Murders theinnocent sleep, Great nature's second course, And makes us rather slingthe arrows of outrageous fortune Than fly to others that we know not of.There's the respect must give us pause: Wake Duncan with thy knocking! Iwould thou couldst; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, Theoppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The law's delay, and thequietus which his pangs might take, In the dead waste and middle of thenight, when churchyards yawn In customary suits of solemn black, But thatthe undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns, Breathesforth contagion on the world, And thus the native hue of resolution, likethe poor cat i' the adage, Is sicklied o'er with care, And all the cloudsthat lowered o'er our housetops, With this regard their currents turnawry, And lose the name of action. 'Tis a consummation devoutly to bewished. But soft you, the fair Ophelia: Ope not thy ponderous and marblejaws, But get thee to a nunnery--go!

  Well, the old man he liked that speech, and he mighty soon got it so hecould do it first-rate. It seemed like he was just born for it; and whenhe had his hand in and was excited, it was perfectly lovely the way hewould rip and tear and rair up behind when he was getting it off.

  The first chance we got the duke he had some showbills printed; and afterthat, for two or three days as we floated along, the raft was a mostuncommon lively place, for there warn't nothing but sword fighting andrehearsing--as the duke called it--going on all the time. One morning,when we was pretty well down the State of Arkansaw, we come in sight of alittle one-horse town in a big bend; so we tied up about three-quartersof a mile above it, in the mouth of a crick which was shut in like atunnel by the cypress trees, and all of us but Jim took the canoe andwent down there to see if there was any chance in that place for ourshow.

  We struck it mighty lucky; there was going to be a circus there thatafternoon, and the country people was already beginning to come in, inall kinds of old shackly wagons, and on horses. The circus would leavebefore night, so our show would have a pretty good chance. The duke hehired the courthouse, and we went around and stuck up our bills. Theyread like this:

  Shaksperean Revival ! ! !Wonderful Attraction!For One Night Only!

  The world renowned tragedians, David Garrick the Younger, of Drury LaneTheatre London, and Edmund Kean the elder, of the Royal HaymarketTheatre, Whitechapel, Pudding Lane, Piccadilly, London, and the RoyalContinental Theatres, in their sublime Shaksperean Spectacle entitled

  TheBalcony Scene in Romeo and Juliet ! ! !

  Romeo...................Mr. GarrickJuliet..................Mr. Kean

  Assisted by the whole strength of the company!New costumes, new scenes, new appointments!Also: The thrilling, masterly, and blood-curdlingBroad-sword conflict In Richard III. ! ! !

  Richard III.............Mr. GarrickRichmond................Mr. Kean

  Also: (by special request) Hamlet's Immortal Soliloquy ! !By The Illustrious Kean! Done by him 300 consecutive nights in Paris!For One Night Only, On account of imperative European engagements!Admission 25 cents; children and servants, 10 cents.

  Then we went loafing around town. The stores and houses was most allold, shackly, dried up frame concerns that hadn't ever been painted; theywas set up three or four foot above ground on stilts, so as to be out ofreach of the water when the river was over-flowed. The houses had littlegardens around them, but they didn't seem to raise hardly anything inthem but jimpson-weeds, and sunflowers, and ash piles, and old curled-upboots and shoes, and pieces of bottles, and rags, and played-out tinware.The fences was made of different kinds of boards, nailed on at differenttimes; and they leaned every which way, and had gates that didn't generlyhave but one hinge--a leather one. Some of the fences had beenwhite-washed some time or another, but the duke said it was in Clumbus'time, like enough. There was generly hogs in the garden, and peopledriving them out.

  All the stores was along one street. They had white domestic awnings infront, and the country people hitched their horses to the awning-posts.There was empty drygoods boxes under the awnings, and loafers roosting onthem all day long, whittling them with their Barlow knives; and chawingtobacco, and gaping and yawning and stretching--a mighty ornery lot.They generly had on yellow straw hats most as wide as an umbrella, butdidn't wear no coats nor waistcoats, they called one another Bill, andBuck, and Hank, and Joe, and Andy, and talked lazy and drawly, and usedconsiderable many cuss words. There was as many as one loafer leaning upagainst every awning-post, and he most always had his hands in hisbritches-pockets, except when he fetched them out to lend a chaw oftobacco or scratch. What a body was hearing amongst them all the tim

  "Gimme a chaw 'v tobacker, Hank."

  "Cain't; I hain't got but one chaw left. Ask Bill."

  Maybe Bill he gives him a chaw; maybe he lies and says he ain't got none.Some of them kinds of loafers never has a cent in the world, nor a chawof tobacco of their own. They get all their chawing by borrowing; theysay to a fellow, "I wisht you'd len' me a chaw, Jack, I jist this minutegive Ben Thompson the last chaw I had"--which is a lie pretty mucheverytime; it don't fool nobody but a stranger; but Jack ain't nostranger, so he says:

  "YOU give him a chaw, did you? So did your sister's cat's grandmother.You pay me back the chaws you've awready borry'd off'n me, Lafe Buckner,then I'll loan you one or two ton of it, and won't charge you no backintrust, nuther."

  "Well, I DID pay you back some of it wunst."

  "Yes, you did--'bout six chaws. You borry'd store tobacker and paid backnigger-head."

  Store tobacco is flat black plug, but these fellows mostly chaws thenatural leaf twisted. When they borrow a chaw they don't generly cut itoff with a knife, but set the plug in between their teeth, and gnaw withtheir teeth and tug at the plug with their hands till they get it in two;then sometimes the one that owns the tobacco looks mournful at it whenit's handed back, and says, sarcastic:

  "Here, gimme the CHAW, and you take the PLUG."

  All the streets and lanes was just mud; they warn't nothing else BUT mud--mud as black as tar and nigh about a foot deep in some places, and twoor three inches deep in ALL the places. The hogs loafed and gruntedaround everywheres. You'd see a muddy sow and a litter of pigs comelazying along the street and whollop herself right down in the way, wherefolks had to walk around her, and she'd stretch out and shut her eyes andwave her ears whilst the pigs was milking her, and look as happy as ifshe was on salary. And pretty soon you'd hear a loafer sing out, "Hi! SOboy! sick him, Tige!" and away the sow would go, squealing most horrible,with a dog or two swinging to each ear, and three or four dozen morea-coming; and then you would see all the loafers get up and watch the thingout of sight, and laugh at the fun and look grateful for the noise. Thenthey'd settle back again till there was a dog fight. There couldn'tanything wake them up all over, and make them happy all over, like a dogfight--unless it might be putting turpentine on a stray dog and settingfire to him, or tying a tin pan to his tail and see him run himself todeath.

  On the river front some of the houses was sticking out over the bank, andthey was bowed and bent, and about ready to tumble in, The people hadmoved out of them. The bank was caved away under one corner of someothers, and that corner was hanging over. People lived in them yet, butit was dangersome, because sometimes a strip of land as wide as a housecaves in at a time. Sometimes a belt of land a quarter of a mile deepwill start in and cave along and cave along till it all caves into theriver in one summer. Such a town as that has to be always moving back,and back, and back, because the river's always gnawing at it.

  The nearer it got to noon that day the thicker and thicker was the wagonsand horses in the streets, and more coming all the time. Familiesfetched their dinners with them from the country, and eat them in thewagons. There was considerable whisky drinking going on, and I seenthree fights. By and by somebody sings out:

  "Here comes old Boggs!--in from the country for his little old monthlydrunk; here he comes, boys!"

  All the loafers looked glad; I reckoned they was used to having fun outof Boggs. One of them says:

  "Wonder who he's a-gwyne to chaw up this time. If he'd a-chawed up allthe men he's ben a-gwyne to chaw up in the last twenty year he'd haveconsiderable ruputation now."

  Another one says, "I wisht old Boggs 'd threaten me, 'cuz then I'd know Iwarn't gwyne to die for a thousan' year."

  Boggs comes a-tearing along on his horse, whooping and yelling like anInjun, and singing out:

  "Cler the track, thar. I'm on the waw-path, and the price uv coffins isa-gwyne to raise."

  He was drunk, and weaving about in his saddle; he was over fifty yearold, and had a very red face. Everybody yelled at him and laughed at himand sassed him, and he sassed back, and said he'd attend to them and laythem out in their regular turns, but he couldn't wait now because he'dcome to town to kill old Colonel Sherburn, and his motto was, "Meatfirst, and spoon vittles to top off on."

  He see me, and rode up and says:

  "Whar'd you come f'm, boy? You prepared to die?"

  Then he rode on. I was scared, but a man says:

  "He don't mean nothing; he's always a-carryin' on like that when he'sdrunk. He's the best naturedest old fool in Arkansaw--never hurt nobody,drunk nor sober."

  Boggs rode up before the biggest store in town, and bent his head down sohe could see under the curtain of the awning and yells:

  "Come out here, Sherburn! Come out and meet the man you've swindled.You're the houn' I'm after, and I'm a-gwyne to have you, too!"

  And so he went on, calling Sherburn everything he could lay his tongueto, and the whole street packed with people listening and laughing andgoing on. By and by a proud-looking man about fifty-five--and he was aheap the best dressed man in that town, too--steps out of the store, andthe crowd drops back on each side to let him come. He says to Boggs,mighty ca'm and slow--he says:

  "I'm tired of this, but I'll endure it till one o'clock. Till oneo'clock, mind--no longer. If you open your mouth against me only onceafter that time you can't travel so far but I will find you."

  Then he turns and goes in. The crowd looked mighty sober; nobodystirred, and there warn't no more laughing. Boggs rode off blackguardingSherburn as loud as he could yell, all down the street; and pretty soonback he comes and stops before the store, still keeping it up. Some mencrowded around him and tried to get him to shut up, but he wouldn't; theytold him it would be one o'clock in about fifteen minutes, and so he MUSTgo home--he must go right away. But it didn't do no good. He cussedaway with all his might, and throwed his hat down in the mud and rodeover it, and pretty soon away he went a-raging down the street again,with his gray hair a-flying. Everybody that could get a chance at himtried their best to coax him off of his horse so they could lock him upand get him sober; but it warn't no use--up the street he would tearagain, and give Sherburn another cussing. By and by somebody says:

  "Go for his daughter!--quick, go for his daughter; sometimes he'll listento her. If anybody can persuade him, she can."

  So somebody started on a run. I walked down street a ways and stopped.In about five or ten minutes here comes Boggs again, but not on hishorse. He was a-reeling across the street towards me, bare-headed, witha friend on both sides of him a-holt of his arms and hurrying him along.He was quiet, and looked uneasy; and he warn't hanging back any, but wasdoing some of the hurrying himself. Somebody sings out:


  I looked over there to see who said it, and it was that Colonel Sherburn.He was standing perfectly still in the street, and had a pistol raised inhis right hand--not aiming it, but holding it out with the barrel tiltedup towards the sky. The same second I see a young girl coming on therun, and two men with her. Boggs and the men turned round to see whocalled him, and when they see the pistol the men jumped to one side, andthe pistol-barrel come down slow and steady to a level--both barrelscocked. Boggs throws up both of his hands and says, "O Lord, don'tshoot!" Bang! goes the first shot, and he staggers back, clawing at theair--bang! goes the second one, and he tumbles backwards on to theground, heavy and solid, with his arms spread out. That young girlscreamed out and comes rushing, and down she throws herself on herfather, crying, and saying, "Oh, he's killed him, he's killed him!" Thecrowd closed up around them, and shouldered and jammed one another, withtheir necks stretched, trying to see, and people on the inside trying toshove them back and shouting, "Back, back! give him air, give him air!"

  Colonel Sherburn he tossed his pistol on to the ground, and turned aroundon his heels and walked off.

  They took Boggs to a little drug store, the crowd pressing around justthe same
, and the whole town following, and I rushed and got a good placeat the window, where I was close to him and could see in. They laid himon the floor and put one large Bible under his head, and opened anotherone and spread it on his breast; but they tore open his shirt first, andI seen where one of the bullets went in. He made about a dozen longgasps, his breast lifting the Bible up when he drawed in his breath, andletting it down again when he breathed it out--and after that he laidstill; he was dead. Then they pulled his daughter away from him,screaming and crying, and took her off. She was about sixteen, and verysweet and gentle looking, but awful pale and scared.

  Well, pretty soon the whole town was there, squirming and scrouging andpushing and shoving to get at the window and have a look, but people thathad the places wouldn't give them up, and folks behind them was sayingall the time, "Say, now, you've looked enough, you fellows; 'tain't rightand 'tain't fair for you to stay thar all the time, and never give nobodya chance; other folks has their rights as well as you."

  There was considerable jawing back, so I slid out, thinking maybe therewas going to be trouble. The streets was full, and everybody wasexcited. Everybody that seen the shooting was telling how it happened,and there was a big crowd packed around each one of these fellows,stretching their necks and listening. One long, lanky man, with longhair and a big white fur stovepipe hat on the back of his head, and acrooked-handled cane, marked out the places on the ground where Boggsstood and where Sherburn stood, and the people following him around fromone place to t'other and watching everything he done, and bobbing theirheads to show they understood, and stooping a little and resting theirhands on their thighs to watch him mark the places on the ground with hiscane; and then he stood up straight and stiff where Sherburn had stood,frowning and having his hat-brim down over his eyes, and sung out,"Boggs!" and then fetched his cane down slow to a level, and says "Bang!"staggered backwards, says "Bang!" again, and fell down flat on his back.The people that had seen the thing said he done it perfect; said it wasjust exactly the way it all happened. Then as much as a dozen people gotout their bottles and treated him.

  Well, by and by somebody said Sherburn ought to be lynched. In about aminute everybody was saying it; so away they went, mad and yelling, andsnatching down every clothes-line they come to to do the hanging with.