THAT OTHER book which I made before, was named "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." Maybe you remember about it. But if you don't, it don't make no difference, because it ain't got nothin to do with this one. The way it ended up, was this. Me and Tom Sawyer and the nigger Jim, that used to belong to old Miss Watson was away down in Arkansaw at Tom's aunt Sally's and uncle Silas's. Jim warn's a slave no more, but free; because but never mind about that: how he become to get free, and who done it, and what a power of work and danger it was, is all told about in that other book.
Well then, pretty soon it got dull there on that little plantation and Tom he got pisoned with a notion of going amongst the Injuns for a while, to see how it would be; but about that time aunt Sally took us off up home to Missouri; and then right away after that she went away across the State, nearly to the west border, to stay a month or two months with some of her relations on a hemp farm out there, and took Tom and Sid and Mary; and I went along because Tom wanted me to, and Jim went too, because there was white men around our little town that was plenty mean enough and ornery enough to steal Jim's papers from him and sell him down the river again; but they couldn't come that if he staid with us.
Well, there's liver places than a hemp farm, there ain't no use to deny it, and some people don't take to them. Pretty soon, sure enough, just as I expected, Tom he begun to get in a sweat to have something going on. Somehow, Tom Sawyer couldn't ever stand much lazying around; though as for me, betwixt lazying around and pie, I hadn't no choice, and wouldn't know which to take, and just as soon have them both as not, and druther. So he rousted out his Injun notion again, and was dead set on having us run off, some night, and cut for the Injun country and go for adventures. He said it was getting too dull on the hemp farm, it give him the fan-tods.
But me and Jim kind of hung fire. Plenty to eat and nothing to do. We was very well satisfied. We hadn't ever had such comfortable times before, and we reckoned we better let it alone as long as Providence warn's noticing; it would get busted up soon enough, likely, without our putting in and helping. But Tom he stuck to the thing, and pegged at us every day. Jim says:
"I doan' see de use, Mars Tom. Fur as I k'n see, people dat has Injuns on dey hen's ain' no better off den people dat ain' got no Injuns. Well den: we ain' got no Injuns, we doan' need no Injuns, en what does we want to go en hunt 'em up f'r? We's gitt'n along jes' as well as if we had a million un um. Dey's powful ornery lot, anyway." "Who is?"
"Why, de Injuns."
"Who says so?"
"Why, I says so."
"What do you know about it?"
'What does I know 'bout it? I knows dis much. Ef dey ketches a body out, dey'll take en skin him same as dey would a dog. Dat's what I knows 'bout 'cm."
"All fol-de-rol. Who told you that?"
"Why, I hear ole Missus say so."
"Ole Missus! The widow Douglas! Much she knows about it. Has she ever been skinned?"
"Just as I expected. She don't know what she's talking about. Has she ever been amongst the Injuns?"
"Well, then, what right has she got to be blackguarding them and telling what ain't so about them?"
'Well, anyway, ole Gin'l Gaines, he's teen amongst 'm, anyway."
"All right, so he has. Been with them lots of times, hasn't he?"
"Yeslots of times."
"Been with them years, hasn't he?"
"Yes, sir! Why, Mars Tom, he--"
"Very well, then. Has he been skinned? You answer me that."
Jim see Tom had him. He couldn't say a word. Tom Sawyer was the keenest boy for laying for a person and just leading him along by the nose without ever seeming to do it till he got him where he couldn't budge and then bust his arguments all to flinders I ever see. It warn't no use to argue with Tom Sawyera body never stood any show.
Jim he hem'd and haw'd, but all he could say was, that he had somehow got the notion that Injuns was powerful ornery, but he reckoned maybe then Tom shut him off.
"You reckon maybe you've been mistaken. Well, you have. Injuns ornery! It's the most ignorant idea that everwhy, Jim, they're the noblest human beings that's ever been in the world. If a white man tells you a thing, do you know it's true? No, you don't; because generally it's a lie. But if an Injun tells you a thing, you can bet on it every time for the petrified fact; because you can't get an Injun to lie, he would cut his tongue out first. If you trust to a white man's honor, you better look out; but you trust to an Injun's honor, and nothing in the world can make him betray youhe would die first, and be glad to. An Injun is all honor. It's what they're made of. You ask a white man to divide his property with youwill he do it? I think I see him at it; but you go to an Injun, and he'll give you everything he s got in the world. It's just the difference between an Injun and a white man. They're just all generousness and unstingeableness. And brave? Why, they ain't afraid of anything. If there was just one Injun, and a whole regiment of white men against him, they wouldn't stand the least show in the world,not the least. You'd see that splendid gigantic Injun come war-whooping down on his wild charger all over paint and feathers waving his tomahawk and letting drive with his bow faster than anybody could count the arrows and hitting a soldier in any part of his body he wanted to, every time, any distance, and in two minutes you'd see him cantering off with a wheelbarrow-load of scalps and the rest of them stampeding for the United States the same as if the menagerie was after them. Death?an Injun don't care shucks for death. They prefer it. They sing when they're dyingsing their deathsong. You take an Injun and stick him full of arrows and splinters, and hack him up with a hatchet, and skin him, and start a slow fire under him, and do you reckon he minds it? No sir; he will just set there in the hot ashes, perfectly comfortable, and sing, same as if he was on salary. Would a white man? You know he wouldn't. And they're the most gigantic magnificent creatures in the whole world, and can knock a man down with a barrel of flour as far as they can see him. They're awful strong, and fiery, and eloquent, and wear beautiful blankets, and war paint, and moccasins, and buckskin I clothes, all over beads, and go fighting and scalping every day in the year but Sundays, and have a noble good time, and they love friendly white men, and just dote on them, and can't do too much for them, and would rather die than let any harm come to them, I and they think just as much of niggers as they do of anybody, and the young squaws are the most beautiful beautiful maidens that was ever in the whole world, and they love a white hunter the minute their eye falls on him, and from that minute nothing can ever shake their love loose again, and they're always on the watch-out to protect him from danger and get themselves killed in the place of himlook at Pocahontas!and an Injun can see as far as a telescope with the naked eye, and an enemy can't slip around anywhere, even in the dark, but he knows it; and if he sees one single blade of grass bent down, it's all he wants, he knows which way to go to find the enemy that done it, and he can read all kinds ot trifling little signs just the same way with his eagle eye which you wouldn't ever see at all, and if he sees a little whiff of smoke going up in the air thirty-five miles off, he knows in a second if it's a friend's camp fire or an enemy's, just by the smell of the smoke, because they're the most giftedest people in the whole world, and the hospitablest and the happiest, and don't ever have anything to do from year's end to year's end but have a perfectly supernatural good time and piles and piles of adventures! Amongst the Injuns, life is just simply a circus, that's what it is. Anybody that knows, will tell you you can't praise it too high and you can't put it too strong.
Jim's eyes was shining, and so was mine, I reckon, and he was excited, and it was the same with both of us, as far as that was concerned. Jim drawed a long breath, and then says:
"Whoosh! Dem's de ticket for Jim! Bust ef it doan' beat all, how rotten ignornt a body kin be 'bout Injuns w'en 'e hadn't had no chance to study um up. Why,Mars Tom, ef I'd a knowed what Injuns reely is, I pledges you my word I'dwell, you jes' count me in, dat's all; count me in on de Injun-country business; I's ready to go, I doan' want no likelier folks aroun' me d'n what dem Injuns is. En Huck's ready, toohadn't it so, Huck?"
Course I warn's going to stay behind if they went, so I said I was.
So we went to making preparations; and mighty private and secret, too, because Tom Sawyer wouldn't have nothing to do with a thing if there warn't no mystery about it. About three mile out in the woods, amongst the hills, there was an old tumble-down log house that used to be lived in, some time or other when people cut timber there, and we found it on a coon hunt one night, but nobody ever went there, now. So we let on it was infested with pirates and robbers, and we laid in the woods all one rainy night, perfectly still, and not showing fire or a light; and just before dawn we crept pretty close and then sprung out, whooping and yelling, and took it by surprise, and never lost a man, Tom said, and was awful proud of it, though I couldn't see no sense in all that trouble and bother, because we could a took it in the day time just as well, there warn't nobody there. Tom called the place a cavern, though it warn't a cavern at all, it was a house, and a mighty ornery house at that.
Every day we went up to the little town that was two mile from the farm, and bought things for the outfit and to barter with the Injunsskillets and coffee pots and tin cups, and blankets, and three sacks of flour, and bacon and sugar and coffee, and fish hooks, and pipes and tobacco, and ammunition, and pistols, and three guns, and glass beads, and all such things. And we hid them in the woods; and nights we crumb out of the window and slid down the lightning rod, and went and got the things and took them to the cavern. There was an old Mexican on the next farm below ours, and we got him to learn us how to pack a pack-mule so we could do it first rate.
And last of all, we went down fifteen or twenty mile further and bought five good mules, and saddles, because we didn't want to raise no suspicions around home, and took the mules to the cavern in the night and picketed them in the grass. There warn't no better mules in the State of Missouri, Tom said, and so did Jim.
Our idea was to have a time amongst the Injuns for a couple of months or so, but we had stuff enough to last longer than that, I reckon, because Tom allowed we ought to be fixed for accidents. Tom bought a considerable lot of little odds and ends of one kind and another which it ain't worth while to name, which he said they would come good with the Injuns.
Well, the last day that we went up to town, we laid in an almanac, and a flask or two of liquor, and struck a stranger that had a curiosity and was peddling it. It was little sticks about as long as my finger with some stuff like yellow wax on the ends, and all you had to do was to rake the yellow end on something, and the stick would catch fire and smell like all possessed, on account of part of it being brimstone. We hadn't ever heard of anything like that, before. They were the convenientest things in the world, and just the trick for us to have; so Tom bought a lot of them. The man called them lucifer matches, and said anybody could make them that had brimstone and phosphorus to do it with. So he sold Tom a passer of brimstone and phosphorus, and we allowed to make some for ourselves some time or other.
We was all ready, now. So we waited for full moon, which would be in two or three days. Tom wrote a letter to his aunt Polly to leave behind, telling her good bye, and saying rest easy and not worry, because we would be back in two or three weeks, but not telling her anything about where we was going.
And then Thursday night, when it was about eleven and everything still, we got up and dressed, and slid down the lightning rod, and shoved the letter under the front door, and slid by the niggerquarter and give a low whistle, and Jim come gliding out and we struck for the cavern, and packed everything onto two of the mules, and put on our belts and pistols and bowie knives, and saddled up the three other mules and rode out into the big moonlight and started west.
By and by we struck level country, and a pretty smooth path, and not so much woods, and the moonlight was perfectly splendid, and so was the stillness. You couldn't hear nothing but the skreaking of the saddles. After a while there was that cool and fresh feeling that tells you day is coming; and then the sun come up behind us, and made the leaves and grass and flowers shine and sparkle, on account of the dew, and the birds let go and begun to sing like everything.
So then we took to the woods, and made camp, and picketed the mules, and laid off and slept a good deal of the day. Three more nights we traveled that way, and laid up daytimes, and everything was mighty pleasant. We never run across anybody, and hardly ever see a light. After that, we judged we was so far from home that we was safe; so then we begun to travel by daylight.
The second day after that, when we was hoping to begin to see Injun signs, we struck a wagon road, and at the same time we struck an emigrant wagon with a family aboard, and it was near sundown, and they asked us to camp with them, and we done it.
There was a man about fifty-five and his wife, named Mills, and three big sons, Buck and Bill and Sam, and a girl that said she was seventeen, named Peggy, and her little sister Flaxy, seven year old. They was from down in the lower end of Missouri, and said they was bound for Oregongoing to settle there. We said we was bound for the Injun country, and they said they was going to pass through it and we could join company with them if we would like to.
They was the simple-heartedest good-naturedest country folks in the world, and didn't know anything hardlyI mean what you call "learning." Except Peggy. She had read considerable many books, and knowed as much as most any girl, and was just as pretty as ever she could be, and live. But she warn't no prettier than she was good, and all the tribe doted on her. Why they took as much care of her as if she was made out of sugar or gold or something. When she'd come to the camp fire, any of her brothers would get up in a minute and give her the best place. I reckon you don't see that kind of brothers pretty often. She didn't have to saddle her own mule, the way she'd have to do in most society, they always done it for her. Her and her mother never had anything to do but cook, that is all; the brothers got the wood, they built the fires, they skinned the game; and whenever they had time they helped her wash up the things. It ain't often you see a brother kiss his own sister; fact is, I don't know as I'd ever seen such a thing before; but they done it. I know, because I see them do it myself; and not just once, but plenty of times. Tom see it, too, and so did Jim. And they never said a cross word to her, not one. They called her "dear." Plenty of times they called her that; and right before company, too; they didn't care; they never thought nothing of it. And she didn't, either. They'd say "Peggy dear," to her, just in the naturalest off-handedest way, it didn't make no difference who was around; and it took me two or three days to get so I could keep from blushing, I was so ashamed for them, though I knowed it warn't the least harm, because they was right out of the woods and didn't know no better. But I don't wish to seem to be picking flaws in them, and abusing them, because I don't. They was the splendidest people in the world; and after you got that fact stowed in your mind solid, you was very well satisfied, and perfectly willing to overlook their manners; because nobody can't be perfect, anyway.
We all got to be uncommon friendly together; it warn's any trouble at all. We traveled with them, and camped with them every night. Buck and Bill and Sam was wonderful with a lasso, or a gun, or a pistol, or horseback riding, and they learned us all these things so that we got to be powerful good at them, specially Tom; and though he couldn't throw a lasso as far as a man could, he could throw it about as true. And he could cave in a squirrel's or a wild turkey's or a prairie chicken's head any fair distance; and could send both loads from his pistol through your hat on a full gallop, at twenty yards, if you wanted him to. There warn's ever any better people than the Millses; but Peggy she was the cap-sheaf of the lot, of course; so gentle, she was, and so sweet, and whenever you'd done any little thing for her it made you feel so kind of all over comfortable and blessed to see her smile. If you ever felt cut, about anything, she never asked about the rights of it, or who done it, but just went to work and never rested till she had coaxed the smart all out and made you forget all about it. And she was that kind of a girl that if you ever made a mistake and happened to say something that hurt her, the minute you saw by her face what you had done, you wanted to get down on your knees in the dirt, you felt so mean and sorry. You couldn't ever get tired looking at her, all day long, she was so dear and pretty; and mornings it warn't ever sun-up to me till she come out.
One day, about a couple of weeks after we had left the United States behind, and was ever so far away out on the Great Plains, we struck the Platte river and went into camp in a nice grassy place a couple of hours before sun-down, and there we run across a camp of Injuns, the first ones we had been close enough to, yet, to get acquainted with. Tom was powerful glad.
I T WAS just the place for a camp; the likeliest we had found yet. Big stream of water, and considerable many trees along it. The rest of the country, as far as you could see, any which-way you looked, clear to where the sky touched the earth, was just long levels and low waveslike what I reckon the ocean would be, if the ocean was made out of grass. Away off, miles and miles, was one tree standing by itself, and away off the other way was another, and here and yonder another and another scattered around; and the air was so clear you would think they was close by, but it warn's so, most of them was miles away.
Old Mills said he would stop there and rest up the animals. I happened to be looking at Peggy, just then, because I mostly always happened to be looking at her when she was around, and her cheeks turned faint red and beautiful, like a rigger's does when he puts a candle in his mouth to surprise a child; she never said nothing, but pretty soon she got to singing low to herself and looking happy. I didn't let on; but next morning when I see her slip off to the top of one of them grass-waves and stand shading her eyes with her hand and looking away off over the country, I went there and got it all out of her. And it warn's no trouble, either, after she got started. It looked like the mainest trouble was going to be to stop her again.
She had a sweetheartthat was what was the matter of her. He had staid behind, to finish up things, and would be along when he got done. His name was Brace Johnson; big, and fine, and brave, and good, and splendid, and all that, as near as I could make out; twenty-six years old; been amongst the Injuns ever since he was a boy, trapping, hunting, scouting, fighting; knowed all about Injuns, knowed some of the languages, knowed the plains and the mountains, and all the whole country, from Texas to Oregon; and now he was done with all that kind of life, and her and him was going to settle down in Oregon, and get married, and go to farming it. I reckon she thought she only loved him; but I see by her talk it was upwards of that, she worshiped him. She said we was to stay where we was till he come, which might be in a week, and then we would stay as much longer as her pap thought the horses needed to.
There was five of the Injuns, and they had spry little ponies, and was camped tolerable close by. They was big. strong, grand lookingfellows, and had on buckskin leggings and moccasins, and red feathers in their hari, and kives and tomahawks, and bows and arrows, and one of them had an old gun and could talk a little English, but it warn't no use to him, he couldn't kill anything with it because it hadn't any flint--I mean the gun. They was naked from the waist down when they hadn't on their blankets.
They set around our fire till bedtime, the first night, and took supper with us, and passed around the pipe, and was very friendly, and made signs to us, and grunted back, when we signed anything they understood, and pretty much everything they see that they liked, they wanted it. So they got coffee, and sugar, and tobacco, and a lot of little things.
They was there to breakfast, next morning, and then me and Tom went over to their camp with them, and we all shot at a mark with their bows and arrows, and they could outshoot anything I ever see with a bow and arrow, and could stand off a good ways and hit a tree with a tomahawk every time.
They come back with us at noon and eat dinner, and the one with the gun showed it to Peggy, and made signs would she give him a flint, and she got one from her father, and put it in the gunlock and fixed it herself, and the Injun was very thankful, and called her good squaw and pretty squaw, and she was ever so pleased; and another one named Hog Face that had a bad old hurt on his shin, she bandaged it up and put salve on it, and he was very thankful too.
Tom he was just wild over the Injuns, and said there warn't no white men so noble and he warn't by himself in it, because me and Jim, and all the rest of us got right down fond of them; and Peggy said she did wish Brace was here, he would change his notions about Injuns, which he was down on, and hated them like snakes, and always said he wouldn't trust one any how or any where, in peace time or war time or any other time. She showed me a little dirk-knife which she got out of her bosom, and asked me what I reckoned it was for, and who give it to her.
"I don't know," says I. "Who did give it to you?"
"Brace." Then she laughed, gay and happy, and says, "You'll never guess what it's for."
"Well, what is it for?" says I.
"To kill myself with!"
"O, good land!" says I, "how you talk."
"Yes," she says, "it's the truth. Brace told me that if I ever fell into the hands of the savages, I mustn't stop to think about him, or the family, or anything, or wait an hour to see if I mightn't be rescued; I mustn't waste any time, I mustn't take any chances, I must kill myself right away."
"Goodness," I says, "and for why?"
"I don't know."
"Didn't you ask him why?"
"Of course; and teased him to tell me, but he wouldn't. He kept trying to get me to promise, but I laughed him off, every time, and told him if he was so anxious to get rid of me he must tell me why I must kill myself, and then maybe I would promise. At last he said he couldn't tell me. So I said, very well, then, I wouldn't promise; and laughed again, but he didn't laugh. By and by he said, very serious and troubled, 'You know I wouldn't ask you to do that or any other thing that wasn't the best for youyou can trust me for that, can't you?' That made me serious, too, because that was true; but I couldn't promise such a thing, you know, it made me just shudder to think of it. So then he asked me if I would keep the dirk, as his gift and keepsake; and he said that would do, it was all he wanted."
One of the Injuns, named Blue Fox, come up, just then, and the minute he see the dirk he begun to beg for it; it was their style they begged for everything that come in their way. But Peggy wouldn't let him have it. Next day and the next he come teasing around her, wanting to take it to his camp and make a nice new sheath and a belt for her to wear it in, and so she got tired at last and he took it away. But she never let him have it till he promised he would take good care of it and never let it get out of his hands. He was that pleased, that he up and give her a necklace made out of bears' claws; and as she had to give him something back, of course, she give him a Bible, and tried to learn him some religion, but he couldn't understand, and so it didn't do him no particular goodthat is, it didn't just then, but it did after a little, because when the Injuns got to gambling, same as they done every day, he put up his Bible against a tomahawk and won it.
They was a sociable lot. They wrestled with Buck and Bill and Sam, and learned them some new holts and throws that they didn't know before; and we all run foot races and horse races with them, and it was prime to see the way their ornery little ponies would split along when their pluck was up.
And they danced dances for us. Two or three times they put on all their fuss and feathers and war paint and danced the war dance, and whooped and jumped and howled and yelled, and it was lovely and horrible. But the one with the gun, named Man-afraid-of-his-Mother-in-law, didn't ever put on any paint and finery, and didn't dance in the war dances, and mostly he didn't come around when they had them, and when he did he looked sour and glum and didn't stay.
Yes, we was all stuck after the Injuns, kind of in love with them, as you may say, and I reckon I never had better times than I had then. Peggy was as good to them as if she was their sister or their child, and they was very fond of her. She was sorry for the one with the gun, and tried to encourage him to put on his war paint and dance the war dance with the others and be happy and not glum; and it pleased him to have her be so friendly, but he never done it. But pretty soon it struck her what maybe the matter was, and she says to me:
"He's in mourningthat's what it is; he has lost a friend. And to think, here I have been hurting him, and making him remember his sorrows, when I wouldn't have done such a thing for the whole world if I had known."
So after that, she couldn't do too much for him, nor be sorry enough for him. And she wished more than ever that Brace was here, so he could see that Injuns was just like other people, after all, and had their sorrows and troubles, and knowed how to love a friend and grieve for him when he was gone.
Tom he was set on having the Injuns take me and him and Jim into their band and let us travel to their country and live in tribe a week or two; and so, the fourth day, we went over to camp, me and Tom did, to ask them. But they was fixing for a buffalo hunt next morning, to be gone all day, and maybe longer, and that filled Tom so full of excitement, he couldn't think about anything else, for we hadn't ever seen a buffalo yet. They had a plan for me and Jim and Tom to start before daylight with one Injun and go in one direction, and Buck in another with another Injun, and Bill with another and Sam with another, and leave the other Injun in their camp because he was so lame with his sore leg, and whichever gang found the buffaloes first was to signal the others. So it was all fixed.
Then we see Peggy off there on one of them grass-waves, with Flaxy, looking out over the country with her hand over her eyes, and all the Injuns noticed her at once and asked us what she was looking for. I said she was expecting a lot of friends. The Injun that spoke a little English asked me how many. It's always my disposition to stretch, so I said seven. Tom he kind of smiled, but let it go at that. Man-afraid-of-his-Mother-in-law says:
"Little child (meaning Flaxy, you know,) say only one."
I see I was ketched, but in my opinion a body don't ever gain anything by weakening, in them circumstances, so I says:
"Seven," and said it firm, and stuck to it.
The Injuns talked amongst themselves a while, then they told us to go over and ask Bill and Buck and Sam to come and talk about the hunt. We done it, and they went over, and we all set down to wait supper till they come back; they said they reckoned they would be back inside of a half an hour. In a little while four of the Injuns come and said the boys was staying behind to eat supper with Hog Face in their camp. So then we asked the Injuns to eat supper with us, and Peggy she passed around the tin plates and things, and dished out the vittles, and we all begun. They had put their war paint and feathers and fixings on since we left their camp,all but the one with the gunso I judged we would have another good time. We eat, and eat, and talked, and laughed, till by and by we was all done, and then still we set there talking.
By and by Tom shoved his elbow into my side, soft and easy, and then got up and took a bucket and said he would fetch some water for Peggy, and went cantering off. I said I would help; so I took a bucket and followed along. As soon as we was behind some trees, Tom says:
"Somehow everything don't seem right, Huck. They don't smoke; they ve always smoked, before. There's only one gun outside the wagon, and a minute or two ago one of them was meddling with it. I never thought anything of it at the time, but I do now, because I happened to notice it just a minute ago, and by George the flint's gone! There's something up, HuckI'm going to fetch the boys."
Away he went, and what to do I didn't know. I started back, keeping behind the trees, and when I got pretty close, I judged I would watch what was going on, and wait for Tom and the boys. The Injuns was up, and sidling around, the rest was chatting, same as before, and Peggy was gathering up the plates and things. I heard a trampling like a lot of horses, and when it got pretty near, I see that other Injun coming on a pony, and driving the other ponies and all our mules and horses ahead of him, and he let off a long wild whoop, and the minute he done that, the Injun that had a gun, the one that Peggy fixed, shot her father through the head with it and scalped him, another one tomahawked her mother and scalped her and then these two grabbed Jim and tied his hands together, and the other two grabbed Peggy, who was screaming and crying, and all of them rushed off with her and Jim and Flaxy, and as fast as I run, and as far as I run, I could still hear her, till I was a long, long ways off.
Soon it got dark, and I had to stop, I was so tired. It was an awful long night, and I didn't sleep, but was watching and listening all the time, and scared at every little sound, and miserable. I never see such a night for hanging on, and stringing out, and dismalness.
When daylight come, I didn't cast to stir, at first, being afraid; but I got so hungry I had to. And besides, I wanted to find out about Tom; so I went sneaking for the camp, which was away off across the country, I could tell it by the trees. I struck the line of trees as far up as I could, and slipped along down behind them. There was a smoke, but by and by I see it warn's the camp fire, it was the wagon; the Injuns had robbed it and burnt it. When I got down pretty close, I see Tom there, walking around and looking. I was desperate glad; for I didn't know but the other Injun had got him.
We scratched around for something to eat, but didn't find it, everything being burnt; then we set down and I told Tom everything, and he told me everything. He said when he got to the Injun camp, the first thing he see was Buck and Sam and Bill laying dead tomahawked and scalped, and stripped; and each of them had as much as twenty-five arrows sticking in him. And he told me how else they had served the bodies, which was horrible, but it would not do to put it in a book. Of course the boys' knives and pistols was gone.
Then Tom and me set there a considerable time, with our jaws in our hands, thinking, and not saying anything. At last I says:
He didn't answer right off, but pretty soon he says:
"I've thought it out, and my mind's made up; but I'll give you the first say, if you want it."
"No, I don't want it. I've tried, but I can't seem to strike any plan. We're here, and that's all there is to it. We're here, as much as a million miles from any place, I reckon; and we haven't got anything to eat, nor anything to get it with, and no way to get anywhere but just to hoof it, and I reckon we'd play out and die before we got there that way. We're in a fix. That's all I know about it; we're just in a fix, and you can't call it by no lighter name. Whatever your plan is, it'll suit me; I'll do whatever you say. Go on. Talk."
SO HE says:
"Well, this is my idea, Huck. I got Jim into this scrape, and so of course I ain't going to turn back towards home till I've got him out of it again, or found out he's dead; but you ain't in fault, like me, and so if we can run across any trappers bound for the States"
"Never mind about that, Tom," I says, "I'm agoing with you. I want to help save Jim, if I can, and I want to help save Peggy, too. She was good to us, and I couldn't rest easy if I didn't. I'll go with you, Tom."
"All right," he says, "I hoped you would, and I was certain you would; but I didn't want to cramp you or influence you."
"But how are we going?" says I, "walk?"
"No," he says, "have you forgot about Brace Johnson?"
I had. And it made the cold misery go through me to hear his name; for it was going to be sorrowful times for him when he come.
So-we was to wait there for him. And maybe two or three days, without anything to eat; because the folks warn's expecting him for about a week from the time we camped. We went off a half a mile to the highest of them grass-waves, where there was a small tree, and took a long look over the country, to see if we could see Brace or anybody coming, but there wasn't a living thing stirring, anywhere. It was the biggest, widest, levelest worldand all dead; dead and still; not a sound. The lonesomest place that ever was; enough to break a body's heart, just to listen to the awful stillness of it. We talked a little sometimesonce an hour, maybe; but mostly we took up the time thinking, and looking, because it was hard to talk against such solemness. Once I said:
"Tom, where did you learn about Injunshow noble they was, and alI that?"
He give me a look that showed me I had hit him hard, very hard, and so I wished I hadn't said the words. He turned away his head, and after about a minute he said "Cooper's novels," and didn't say anything more, and I didn't say anything more, and so that changed the subject. I see he didn't want to talk about it, and was feeling bad, so I let it just rest there, not ever having any disposition to fret or worry any person.
We had started a camp fire in a new place further along down the stream, with fire from the burnt wagon, because the Injuns had burnt the bodies of old Mr. Mills and his wife along with the wagon, and so that place seemed a kind of graveyard, you know, and we didn't like to stay about it. We went to the new fire once in a while and kept it going, and we slept there that night, most starved.
We turned out at dawn, and I jumped up brash and gay, for I had been dreaming I was at home; but I just looked around once over that million miles of gray dead level, and my soul sucked back that brashness and gayness again with just one suck, like a sponge, and then all the miserableness come back and was worse than yesterday.
Just as it got to be light, we see some creatures away off on the prairie, going like the wind; and reckoned they was antelopes or Injuns, or both, but didn't know; but it was good to see some life again, anyway; it didn't seem so lonesome after that, for a while.
We was so hungry we couldn't stay still; so we went loafing off, and run across a prairie-dog villagelittle low mounds with holes in them, and a sentinel, which was a prairie dog, and looked like a Norway rat, standing guard. We had long cottonwood sticks along, which we had cut off of the trees and was eating the bark for breakfast; and we dug into the village, and rousted out an owl or two and a couple of hatfuls of rattlesnakes, and hoped we was going to get a dog, but didn't, nor an owl, either; but we hived as bully a rattlesnake as ever I see, and took him to camp and cut his head off and skinned him and roasted him in the hot embers, and he was prime; but Tom was afraid, and wouldn't eat any, at first, but I knowed they was all right, because I had seen hogs and niggers eat them, and it warn't no time to be proud when you are starving to death, I reckoned. Well, it made us feel a powerful sight better, and nearly cheerful again; and when we got done we had snake enough left for a Sunday School blowout, for he was a noble big one. He was middling dry, but if we'd a had some gravy or butter or something, it wouldn't a been any slouch of a picnic.
We put in the third day that we was alone talking, and laying around, and wandering about, and snaking, and found it more and more lonesomer and drearier than ever. Often, as we come to a high grass-wave, we went up and looked out over the country, but all we ever saw was buzzards or ravens or something wheeling round and round over where the Injun camp wasand knowed what brought them there. We hadn't been there; and hadn't even been near there.
When we was coming home towards evening, with a pretty likely snake, we stopped and took another long look across country, and didn't see anything at first, but pretty soon we thought we did; but it was away off yonder against the sky, ever so far, and so we warn's certain. You can see an awful distance there, the air is so clear; so we calculated to have to wait a good while. And we did. In about a half an hour, I reckon, we could make out that it was horses or men or something, and coming our way. Then we laid down and kept close, because it might be Injuns, and we didn't want no more Injun then, far from it. At last Tom says:
"There's three horses, sure."
And pretty soon he says:
"There's a man riding one. I don't make out any more men."
And presently he says:
"There's only one man; he's driving three pack mules ahead of him; and coming along mighty brisk. He's got a wide slouch hat on, and I reckon he's white. It's Brace Johnson, I guess; I reckon he's the only person expected this year. Comelet's creep along behind the grass-waves and get nearer. If it's him, we want to stop him before he gets to the old camp, and break it to him easy."
But we couldn't. He was too fast for us. There he set, on his horse, staring. The minute we showed ourselves he had his gun leveled on us; then he noticed we warn't Injuns, and dropped it, and told us to come on, and we did.
"Boys," he says, "by the odds and ends that's left, I see that this was the Mills's camp. Was you with them?"
I never said nothing; and Tom he didn't, at first; then he said:
"Yes," he says, "I see that, myself, by the signs; but the folks got away, didn't they?along with you?didn't they?"
We didn't answer. He jumped off of his horse, and come up to us quick, looking anxious, and says:
"Where are they?quick, where are they? Where's Peggy?"
Well, we had to tell himthere warn't no other way. And it was all he could do to stand it; just all he could do. And when we come to tell about Peggy, he couldn't stand it; his face turned as white as milk, and the tears run down his cheeks, and he kept saying "Oh, my God, oh my God." It was so dreadful to see him, that I wanted to get him away from that part of it, and so I worked around and got back onto the other details, and says:
"The one with the gun, that didn't have no war paint, he shot Mr. Mills, and scalped him; and he bloodied his hands, then, and made blood stripes across his face with his fingers, like war paint, and then begun to howl war-whoops like the Injuns does in the circus. And poor old Mrs. Mills, she was down on her knees, begging so pitiful when the tomahawk"
"I shall never never see her againnever never any moremy poor little darling, so young and sweet and beautifulbut thank God, she's dead!"
He warn's listening to me.
"Dead?" I says; "if you mean Peggy, she s not dead."
He whirls on me like a wild-cat, and shouts:
"Not dead! Take it back, take it back, or I'll strangle you! How do you know?"
His fingers was working, and so I stepped back a little out of reach, and then says:
"I know she ain't, because I see the Injuns drag her away; and they didn't strike her nor offer to hurt her."
Well, he only just groaned; and waved out his hands, and fetched them together on top of his head. Then he says:
"You staggered me, and for a minute I believed you, and it made me most a lunatic. But it's all rightshe had the dirk. Poor child, poor thingif I had only been here!"
I just had it on my tongue's end to tell him she let Blue Fox have the dirk for a while and I didn't know whether he give it back to her or notbut I didn't say it. Some kind of instinct told me to keep it to myself, I didn't know why. But this fellow was the quickest devil you ever see. He see me hesitate, and he darted a look at me and bored into me like he was trying to see what it was I was keeping back in my mind. But I held my face quiet, and never let on. So then he looked considerable easier, but not entirely easy, and says:
"She had a dirkdidn't you see her have a dirk?"
"Yes," I says.
"Well, then, it's all right. She didn't lose it, nor give it away, nor anything, did she? She had it with her when they carried her away, didn't she?"
Of course I didn't know whether she did or not, but I said yes, because it seemed the thing to say.
"You are sure?" he says.
"Yes, perfectly sure," I says, "I ain't guessing, I know she had it."
He looked very grateful, then, and drawed a long sigh, and says:
"Ah, the poor child, poor friendless little thingthank God she's dead."
I couldn't make out why he wanted her to be dead, nor how he could seem to be so thankful for it. As for me, I hoped she wasn't, and I hoped we would find her, yet, and get her and Flaxy away from the Injuns alive and well, too, and I warn't going to let myself be discouraged out of that thought, either. We started for the Injun camp; and when Tom was on ahead a piece, I up and asked Brace if he actually hoped Peggy was dead; and if he did, why he did. He explained it to me, and then it was all clear.
When we got to the camp, we looked at the bodies a minute, and then Brace said we would bury them presently, but he wanted to look around and make some inquiries, first. So he turned over the ashes of the fire, examining them careful, and examining any little thing he found amongst them, and the tracks, and any little rag or such like matter that was laying around, and pulled out one of the arrows, and examined that, and talked to himself all the time, saying "Siouxyes, Sioux, that's plain"and other remarks like that. I got to wandering around, too, and once when I was a step or two away from him, lo and behold, I found Peggy's little dirk-knife on the ground! It just took my breath, and I reckon I made a kind of a start, for it attracted his attention, and he asked me if I had found something, and I said yes, and dropped on my knees so that the knife was under my leg; and when he was coming, I let some moccasin beads drop on the ground that I had found before, and pretended to be looking at them; and he come and took them up, and whilst he was turning them over in his hand examining them, I slipped the dirk into my pocket; and presently, as soon as it was dark, I slipped out of our camp and carried it away off about a quarter of a mile and thronged it amongst the grass. But I warn't satisfied; it seemed to me that it would be just like that fellow to stumble on it and find it, he was so sharp. I didn't even cast to bury it, I was so afraid he'd find it. So at last I took and cut a little hole and shoved it in betwixt the linings of my jacket, and then I was satisfied. I was glad I thought of that, for it was like having a keepsake from Peggy, and something to remember her by, always as long as I lived.
THAT NIGHT, in camp, after we had buried the bodies, we set around and talked, and me and Tom told Brace all about how we come to be there, on account of Tom wanting us to go with him and hunt up some Injuns and live with them a while, and Brace said it was just like boys the world over, and just the same way it was with him when he was a boy; and as we talked along' you could see he warmed to us because we thought so much of Peggy and told him so many things she done and said, and how she looked. And now and then, as we spoke of the Injuns, a most wicked look would settle into his face, but at these times he never said nothing.
There was some things which he was a good deal puzzled about; and now and then he would bust into the middle of the talk with a remark that showed us his mind had been wandering to them things. Once he says:
"I wonder what the nation put 'em on the war path. It was perfectly peaceable on the Plains a little while back, or I wouldn't a had the folks start, of course. And I wonder if it's general war, or only some little private thing."
Of course we couldn't tell him, and so had to let him puzzle along. Another time, he busted in and says:
"It's the puzzlingest thing!there's features about it that I can't seem to make head nor tail of, no way. I can understand why they fooled around here three or four days, because there warn's no hurry; they knowed they had from here to Oregon to do the job in, and besides, an Injun is patient; he'd rather wait a month till he can make sure of his game without any risk to his own skin than attempt it sooner where there's the least risk. I can understand why they planned a buffalo hunt that would separate all the whites from each other and make the mastering of them easy and certain, because five warriors, nor yet fifteen, won't tackle five men and two boys, even by surprise when they're asleep at dawn, when there's a safer way. Yes, I can understand all thatit's Injun, and easy. But the thing that gits me, is, what made them throw over the buffalo plan and act in such a hurry at lastfor they did act in a hurry. You see, an Injun don't kill a whole gang, that way, right out and out, unless he is mighty mad or in a desperate hurry. After they had got the young men safe out of the way, they would have saved at least the old man for the torture. It clear beats me, I can't understand it."
For the minute, I couldn't help him out any; I couldn't think of anything to make them in a hurry. But Tom he remembered about me telling the Injuns the Millses was expecting seven friends, and they looked off and see Peggy and Flaxy on the watch-out for them. So Brace says:
"That's all right, then; I understand it, now. That's Injunthat would make 'em drop the buffalo business and hurry up things. I know why they didn't kill the nigger, and why they haven't killed him yet, and ain't going to, nor hurt him; and now if I only knowed whether this is general war or only a little private spurt, I would be satisfied and not bother any more. Butwell, hang it, let it go, there ain't any way to find out."
So we dropped back on the details again, and by and by I was telling how Man-afraid-of-his-Mother-in-law streaked his face all over with blood after he killed Mr. Mills, and then
"Why, he done that for war paint!" says Brace Johnson, excited; "warn's he in war-outfit before?warn't they all painted?"
"All but him," I says. "He never wore paint nor danced with the rest in the war dance."
"Why didn't you tell me that before; it explains everything."
"I did tell you," I says, "but you warn's listening."
"It's all right, now, boys," he says, "and I'm glad it's the way it is, for I wasn't feeling willing to let you go along with me, because I didn't know but all the Injuns was after the whites, and it was a general war, and so it would be bad business to let you get into it, and we couldn't dare to travel except by night, anyway. But you are all right, now, and can shove out with me in the morning, for this is nothing but a little private grudge, and like as not this is the end of it. You see some white man has killed a relation of that Injun, and so he has hunted up some whites to retaliate on. It wouldn't be the proper thing for him to ever appear in war fixings again till he had killed a white man and wiped out that score. He was in disgrace till he had done that; so he didn't lose any time about piling on something that would answer for war paint; and I reckon he got off a few war-whoops, too, as soon as he could, to exercise his throat and get the taste of it in his mouth again. They're probably satisfied, now, and there won't be any more trouble."
So poor Peggy guessed right; that Injun was "in mourning;" he had "lost a friend;" but it turns out that he knowed better how to comfort himself than she could do it for him.
We had breakfast just at dawn in the morning, and then rushed our arrangements through. We took provisions and such like things as we couldn't get along without, and packed them on one of the mules, and cachéd the rest of Brace's truckthat is, buried itand then Brace struck the Injun trail and we all rode away, westward. Me and Tom couldn't have kept it; we would have lost it every little while; but it warn't any trouble to Brace, he dashed right along like it was painted on the ground before him, or paved.
He was so sure Peggy had killed herself, that I reckoned he would be looking out for her body, but he never seemed to. It was so strange that by and by I got into a regular sweat to find out why; and so at last I hinted something about it. But he said no, the Injuns would travel the first twenty-four hours without stopping, and then they would think they was far enough ahead of the Millses' seven friends to be safe for a while so then they would go into camp; and there's where we'd find the body. I asked him how far they would go in that time, and he says:
"The whole outfit was fresh and well fed up, and they had the extra horses and mules besides. They'd go as much as eighty miles maybe a hundred."
He seemed to be thinking about Peggy all the time, and never about anything else or anybody else. So I chanced a question, and says:
"What'll the Injuns do with Flaxy?"
"Poor little chap, she s all right, they won t hurt her. No hurry about herwe'll get her from them by and by. They're fond of children, and so they'll keep her or sell her; but whatever band gets her, she'll be the pet of that whole band, and they'll dress her fine and take good care of her. She'll be the only white child the most of the band ever saw, and the biggest curiosity they ever struck in their lives. But they'll see 'em oftener, by and by, if the whites ever get started to emigrating to Oregon, and I reckon they will."
It didn't ever seem to strike him that Peggy wouldn't kill herself whilst Flaxy was a prisoner, but it did me. I had my doubts; sometimes I believed she would, sometimes I reckoned she wouldn't.
We nooned an hour, and then went on, and about the middle of the afternoon Brace seen some Injuns away off, but we couldn't see them. We could see some little specks, that was all; but he said he could see them well enough, and it was Injuns; but they warn's going our way, and didn't make us any bother, and pretty soon they was out of sight. We made about forty or fifty miles that day, and went into camp.
Well, late the next day, the trail pointed for a creek and some bushes on its bank about a quarter of a mile away or more, and Brace stopped his horse and told us to ride on and see if it was the camp; and said if it was, to look around and find the body; and told us to bury it, and be tender with it, and do it as good as we could, and then come to him a mile further down the creek, where he would make campjust come there, and only tell him his orders was obeyed, and stop at that, and not tell him how she looked, nor what the camp was like, nor anything; and then he rode off on a walk, with his head down on his bosom, and took the pack mule with him.
It was the Injun camp, and the body warn't there, nor any sign of it, just as I expected. Tom was for running and telling him, and cheering him up. But I knowed better. I says:
"No, the thing has turned out just right. We'll stay here about long enough to dig a grave with bowie knives, and then we'll go and tell him we buried her."
"That's mysterious, and crooked, and good, and I like that much about it; but hang it there ain't any sense in it, nor any advantage to anybody in it, and I ain't willing to do it."
So it looked like I'd got to tell him why I reckoned it would be better, all around, for Brace to think we found her and buried her, and at last I come out with it, and then Tom was satisfied; and when we had staid there three or four hours, and all through the long twilight till it was plumb dark, we rode down to Brace's camp, and he was setting by his fire with his head down, again, and we only just said, "It's all overand done right," and laid down like we wanted to rest; and he only says, in that deep voice of his'n, "God be good to you, boys, for your kindness," and kind of stroked us on the head with his hand, and that was all that anybody said.
A FTER ABOUT four days, we begun to catch up on the Injuns. The trail got fresher and fresher. They warn's afraid, now, and warn's traveling fast, but we had kept up a pretty good lick all the time. At last one day we struck a camp of theirs where they had been only a few hours before, for the embers was still hot. Brace said we would go very careful, now, and not get in sight of them but keep them just a safe distance ahead. Tom said maybe we might slip up on them in the night, now, and steal Jim and Flaxy away; but he said no, he had other fish to fry, first, and besides it wouldn't win, anyway.
Me and Tom wondered what his other fish was; and pretty soon we dropped behind and got to talking about it. We couldn't make nothing out of it for certain, but we reckoned he was meaning to get even with the Injuns and kill some of them before he took any risks about other things. I remembered he said we would get Flaxy "by and by," and said there warn's no hurry about it. But then for all he talked so bitter about Injuns, it didn't look as if he could actually kill one, for he was the gentlest, kindest-heartedest grown person I ever see.
We killed considerable game, these days; and about this time here comes an antelope scampering towards us. He was a real pretty little creature. He stops, about thirty yards off, and sets up his head, and arches up his neck, and goes to gazing at us out of his bright eyes as innocent as a baby. Brace fetches his gun up to his shoulder, but waited and waited, and so the antelope capered off, zig-zagging first to one side and then "'other, awful graceful, and then stretches straight away across the prairie swift as the wind, and Brace took his gun down. In a little while here comes the antelope back again, and stopped a hundred yards off, and stood still, gazing at us same as before, and wondering who we was and if we was friendly, I reckon. Brace fetches up his gun twice, and then the third time; and this time he fired, and the little fellow tumbled. Me and Tom was starting for him, seeing Brace didn't. But Brace says:
"Better wait a minute, boys, you don't know the antelope. Let him die, first. Because if that little trusting, harmless thing looks up in your face with its grieved eyes when it's dying, you'll never forget it. When I'm out of meat, I kill them, but I don't go around them till they're dead, since the first one."
Tom give me a look, and I give Tom a look, as much as to say, "his fish ain't revenge, that's certain, and so what the mischief is it?"
According to my notions, Brace Johnson was a beautiful man. He was more than six foot tall, I reckon, and had broad shoulders, and he was as straight as a jackstaff, and built as trim as a racehorse. He had the steadiest eye you ever see, and a handsome face, and his hair hung all down his back, and how he ever could keep his outfit so clean and nice, I never could tell, but he did. His buckskin suit looked always like it was new, and it was all hung with fringes, and had a star as big as a plate between the shoulders of his coat, made of beads of all kinds of colors, and had beads on his moccasins, and a hat as broad as a barrel-head, and he never looked so fine and grand as he did a-horseback; and a horse couldn't any more throw him than he could throw the saddle, for when it come to riding, he could lay over anything outside the circus. And as for strength, I never see a man that was any more than half as strong as what he was, and a most lightning marksman with a gun or a bow or a pistol. He had two long-barreled ones in his holsters, and could shoot a pipe out of your mouth, most any distance, every time, if you wanted him to. It didn't seem as if he ever got tired, though he stood most of the watch every night himself, and let me and Tom sleep. We was always glad, for his sake, when a very dark night come, because then we all slept all night and didn't stand any watch; for Brace said Injuns ain't likely to try to steal your horses on such nights, because if you woke up and managed to kill them and they died in the dark, it was their notion and belief that it would always be dark to them in the Happy Hunting Grounds all through eternity, and so you don't often hear of Indians attacking in the night, they do it just at dawn; and when they do ever chance it in the night, it's only moonlight ones, not dark ones.
He didn't talk very much; and when he talked about Injuns, he talked the same as if he was talking about animals; he didn't seem to have much idea that they was men. But he had some of their ways, himself, on account of being so long amongst them; and moreover he had their religion. And one of the things that puzzled him was how such animals ever struck such a sensible religion. He said the Injuns hadn't only but two Gods, a good one and a bad one, and they never paid no attention to the good one, nor ever prayed to him or worried about him at all, but only tried their level best to flatter up the bad god and keep on the good side of him; because the good one loved them and wouldn't ever think of doing them any harm, and so there warn't any occasion to be bothering him with prayers and things, because he was always doing the very best he could for them, anyway, and prayers couldn't better it; but all the trouble come from the bad god, who was setting up nights to think up ways to bring them bad luck and bust up all their plans, and never fooled away a chance to do them all the harm he could; and so the sensible thing was to keep praying and fussing around him all the time, and get him to let up. Brace thought more of the Great Spirit than he did of his own mother, but he never fretted about him. He said his mother wouldn't hurt him, would she? well then, the Great Spirit wouldn't, that was sure.
Now as to that antelope, it brought us some pretty bad luck. When we was done supper, that day, and was setting around talking and smoking, Brace begun to make some calculations about where we might be by next Saturday, as if he thought this day was a Saturday, toowhich it wasn't. So Tom he interrupted him and told him it was Friday. They argued over it, but Tom turned out to be right. Brace set there a while thinking, and looking kind of troubled; then he says:
"It's my mistake, boys, and all my fault, for my carelessness. We're in for some bad luck, and we can't get around it; so the best way is to keep a sharp look-out for it and beat it if we canI mean make it come as light as we can, for of course we can't beat it altogether."
Tom asked him why he reckoned we would have bad luck, and it come out that the Bad God was going to fix it for us. He didn't say Bad God, out and out; didn't mention his name, seemed to be afraid to; said "he" and "him," but we understood. He said a body had got to perpetuate him in all kinds of ways. Tom allowed he said propitiate, but I heard him as well as Tom, and he said perpetuate. He said the commonest way and the best way to perpetuate him was to deny yourself something and make yourself uncomfortable, same as you do in any religion. So one of his plans was to try to perpetuate him by vowing to never allow himself to eat meat on Fridays and Sundays, even if he was starving; and now he had gone and eat it on a Friday, and he'd druther have cut his hand off than done it if he had knowed. He said "he" has got the advantage of us, now, and you could bet he would make the most of it. We would have a run of bad luck, now, and no knowing when it would begin or when it would stop.
We had been pretty cheerful, before that, galloping over them beautiful Plains, and popping at Jack rabbits and prairie dogs and all sorts of things, and snuffing the fresh air of the early mornings, and all that, and having a general good time; but it was all busted up, now, and we quit talking and got terrible blue and uneasy and scared; and Brace he was the bluest of all, and kept getting up, all night, and looking around, when it wasn't his watch; and he put out the camp fire, too, and several times he went out and took a wide turn around the camp to see if everything was right. And every now and then he would say:
"Well, it hadn't come yet, but it's coming."
It come the next morning. We started out from camp, just at early dawn, in a light mist, Brace and the pack mule ahead, I next, and Tom last. Pretty soon the mist begun to thicken, and Brace told us to keep the procession closed well up. In about a half an hour it was a regular fog. After a while Brace sings out:
"Are you all right?"
"All right," I says.
By and by he sings out again:
"All right, boys?"
"All right," I says, and looked over my shoulder and see Tom's mule's ears through the fog.
By and by Brace sings out again, and I sings out, and he says:
"Answer up, Tom," but Tom didn't answer up. So he said it again, and Tom didn't answer up again; and come to look, there warn's anything there but the muleTom was gone.
"It's come," says Brace, "I knowed it would," and we faced around and started back, shouting for Tom. But he didn't answer.
WHEN we had got back a little ways we struck wood and water, and Brace got down and begun to unsaddle. Says I:
'What you going to do?"
"Going to camp."
"Camp!" says I, "why what a notion. I ain't going to camp, I'm going for Tom."
"Going for Tom! Why, you fool, Tom's lost," he says, lifting off his saddle.
"Of course he is," I says, "and you may camp as much as you want to, but I ain't going to desert him, I'm going for him."
"Huck, you don't know what you're talking about. Get off of that mule.
But I didn't. I fetched the mule a whack, and started; but he grabbed him and snaked me off like I was a doll, and set me on the ground. Then he says:
"Keep your shirt on, and maybe we'll find him, but not in the fog. Don't you reckon I know what's best to do?" He fetched a yell, and listened, but didn't get any answer. 'We couldn't find him in the fog; we'd get lost ourselves. The thing for us to do is to stick right here till the fog blows off. Then we'll begin the hunt, with some chance."
I reckoned he was right, but I most wanted to kill him for eating that antelope meat and never stopping to think up what day it was and he knowing so perfectly well what consounded luck it would fetch us. A body can't be too careful about such things.
We unpacked, and picketed the mules, and then set down and begun to talk, and every now and then fetched a yell, but never got any answer. I says:
"When the fog blows off, how long will it take us to find him, Brace?"
"If he was an old hand on the Plains, we'd find him pretty easy; because as soon as he found he was lost he would set down and not budge till we come. But he's green, and he won't do that. The minute a greeny finds he's lost, he can't keep still to save his life tries to find himself, and gets lost worse than ever. Loses his head; wears himself out, fretting and worrying and tramping in all kinds of directions; and what with starving, and going without water, and being so scared, and getting to mooning and imagining more and more, it don't take him but two or three days to go crazy, and then"
"My land, is Tom going to be lost as long as that?" I says; "it makes the cold shudders run over me to think of it."
"Keep up your pluck," he says, "it ain't going to do any good to lose that. I judge Tom ain't hurt; I reckon he got down to cinch up, or something, and his mule got away from him, and he trotted after it, thinking he could keep the direction where the fog swallowed it up, easy enough; and in about a half a minute he was turned around and trotting the other way, and didn't doubt he was right, and so didn't holler till it was too lateit's the way they always do, consound it. And so, if he ain't hurt"
He stopped; and as he didn't go on, I says:
"Well? If he ain't hurt, what then?"
He didn't say anything, right away; but at last he says:
"No, I reckon he ain't hurt, and that's just the worst of it; because there ain't no power on earth can keep him still, now. If he'd a broken his legbut of course he couldn't, with this kind of luck against him."
We whooped, now and then, but I couldn't whoop much, my heart was most broke. The fog hung on, and on, and on, till it seemed a year, and there we set and waited; but it was only a few hours, though it seemed so everlasting. But the sun busted through it at last, and it begun to swing off in big patches, and then Brace saddled up and took a lot of provisions with him, and told me to stick close to camp and not budge, and then he cleared out and begun to ride around camp in a circle, and then in bigger circles, watching the ground for signs all the time; and so he circled wider and wider, till he was far away, and then I couldn't see him any more. Then I freshened up the fire, which he told me to do, and thronged armfuls of green grass on it to make a big smoke; it went up tall and straight to the sky, and if Tom was ten mile off he would see it and come.
I set down, blue enough, to wait. The time dragged heavy. In about an hour I see a speck away off across country, and begun to watch it; and when it got bigger, it was a horseman, and pretty soon I see it was Brace, and he had something across the horse, and I reckoned it was Tom, and he was hurt. But it wasn't; it was a man. Brace laid him down, and says:
"Found him out yonder. He's been lost, nobody knows how long two or three weeks, I judge. He's pretty far gone. Give him a spoonful of soup every little while, but not much, or it will kill him. He's as crazy as a loon, and tried to get away trom me, but he s all used up, and he couldn't. I found Tom's trail in a sandy place, but I lost it again in the grass."
So away he started again, across country, and left me and this fellow there, and I went to making soup. He laid there with his eyes shut, breathing kind of heavy, and muttering and mumbling. He was just skin and bones and rags, that's all he was. His hands was all scratched up and bloody, and his feet the same and all swelled up and wore out, and a sight to look at. His face well, I never see anything so horrible. It was baked with the sun, and was splotchy and purple, and the skin was flaked loose and curled, like old wall paper that's rotted on a damp wall. His lips was cracked and dry, and didn't cover his teeth, so he grinned very disagreeable, like a steel-trap. I judged he had walked till his feet give out on him, and then crawled around them deserts on his hands and knees; for his knees hadn't any flesh or skin on them.
When I got the soup done, I touched him, and he started up scared, and stared at me a second, and then tried to scramble away; but I catched him and held him pretty easy, and he struggling and begging very pitiful for me to let him go and not kill him. I told him I warn't going to hurt him, and had made some nice soup for him; but he wouldn't touch it at first, and shoved the spoon away and said it made him sick to see it. But I persuaded him, and told him I would let him go if he would eat a little, first. So then he made me promise three or four times, and then he took a couple of spoonfuls; and straight off he got just wild and ravenous, and wanted it all. I fed him a cup full, and then carried the rest off and hid it; and so there I had to set, by the hour, and him begging for more; and about every half an hour I give him a little, and his eyes would blaze at the sight of it, and he would grab the cup out of my hands and take it all down at a gulp, and then try to crowd his mouth into it to lick the bottom, and get just raging and frantic because he couldn't.
Between times he would quiet down and doze; and then start up wild, and say "Lost, my God, lost!" and then see me, and recollect, and go to begging for something to eat again. I tried to get some thing out of him about himself, but his head was all wrong, and you couldn't make head nor tail of what he said. Sometimes he seemed to say he had been lost ten years, and sometimes it was ten weeks, and once I judged he said a year; and that is all I could get out of him, and no particulars. He had a little gold locket on a gold chain around his neck, and he would take that out and open it and gaze and gaze at it and forget what he was doing, and doze off again. It had a most starchy young woman in it, dressed up regardless, and two little children in her arms, painted on ivory, like some the widow Douglas had of her old anzesters in Scotland.
This kind of worry and sweat went on the whole day long, and was the longest day I ever see. And then the sun was going down, and no Tom and no Brace. This fellow was sound asleep, for about the first time. I took a look at him, and judged it would last; so I thought I would run out and water the mules and put on their side-lines and get right back again before he stirred. But the pack mule had pulled his lariat loose, and was a little ways off dragging it after him and grazing, and I walked along after him, but every time I got pretty close he thronged up his head and trotted a few steps and first I knowed he had tolled me a long ways, and I wished I had the other mule to catch him with, but I dasn't go back after him, because the dark would catch me and I would lose this one, sure; so I had to keep tagging along after him afoot, coming as near to cussing the antelope meat as I cast, and getting powerful nervous all the time, and wondering if some more of us was going to get lost. And I would a got lost if I hadn't had a pretty big fire; for you could just barely see it, away back yonder like a red spark when I catched the mule at last, and it was plumb dark too, and getting black before I got home. It was that black when I got to camp that you couldn't see at all, and I judged the mules would get water enough -pretty soon without any of my help; so I picketed them closer by than they was before, and put on their side-lines, and groped into the tent, and bent over this fellow to hear if he was there, yet, and all of a sudden it busted on me that I had been gone two or three hours, I didn't know how long, and of course he was out and gone, long ago, and how in the nation would I ever find him in the dark. and this awful storm coming up, and just at that minute I hear the wind begin to shiver along amongst the leaves, and the thunder to mumble and grumble away off, and the cold chills went through me to think of what I had done and how in the world I was ever going to find him again in the dark and the rain, dad fetch him for making all this trouble, poor pitiful rat, so far from home and lost, and I so sorry for him, too.
So I held my breath and listened over him, and by Jackson he was there yet, and I hear him breatheabout once a minute. Once a week would a done me, though, it sounded so good to hear him and I was so thankful he hadn't sloped. I fastened the flap of the tent and then stretched out snug on my blankets, wishing Tom and Brace was there; and thinks I, I'll let myself enjoy this about five minutes before I sail out and freshen up the camp fire.
The next thing that I knowed anything about, was no telling how many hours afterwards. I sort of worked along up out of a solid sleep, then, and when I come to myself the whole earth was rocking with the smashingest blast of thunder I ever heard in my life and the rain was pouring down like the bottom had fell out of the sky. Says I, now I've done it! the camp fire's out, and no way for Tom or Brace to find the camp. I lit out, and it was so; everything drenched, not a sign of an ember left. Of course nobody could ever start a new fire out there in the rain and wind; but I could build one inside and fetch it out after it got to going good. So I rushed in and went to bulging around in the dark, and lost myself and fell over this fellow, and scrambled up off of him, and begged his pardon and asked if I hurt him; but he never said a word and didn't make a sound. And just then comes one of them blind-white glares of lightning that turns midnight to daytime, and there he laid, grinning up at me, stone dead. And he had hunks of bread and meat around, and I see in a second how it all was. He had got at our grub whilst I was after the mule, and over-eat himself and died, and I had been sleeping along perfectly comfortable with his relics I don't know how long, and him the gashliest sight I ever struck. But I never waited there to think all that; I was out in the public wilderness before the flash got done quivering, and I never went back no more. I let him have it all to his own self; I didn't want no company.
I went off a good ways, and staid the rest of the night out, and got most drownded; and about an hour or more after sun-up Tom and Brace come, and I was glad. I told them how things had went, and we took the gold locket and buried the man and had breakfast, and Brace didn't scold me once. Tom was about used up, and we had to stay there a day or two for him to get straightened up again. I asked him all about it, and he says:
"I got down to cinch up, and I nearly trod on a rattlesnake which I didn't see, but heard him go bzzz! right at my heel. I jumped most a rod, I was so scared and taken so sudden, and I run about three steps, and then looked back over my shoulder and my mule was gonenothing but just white fog there. I forgot the snake in a second, and went for the mule. For ten steps I didn't hurry, expecting to see him all the time; but I picked up my heels, then, and run. When I had run a piece I got a little nervous, and was just going to yell, though I was ashamed to, when I thought I heard voices ahead of me, bearing to the right, and that give me confidence, knowing it must be you boys; so I went heeling it after you on a short-cut; but if I did hear voices I misjudged the direction and went the other way, because you know you can't really tell where a sound comes from, in a fog. I reckon you was trotting in one direction and me in the other, because it warn't long before I got uneasy and begun to holler, and you didn't hear me nor answer. Well, that scared me so that I begun to tremble all over, and I did wish the fog would lift, but it didn't, it shut me in, all around, like a thick white smoke. I wanted to wait, and let you miss me and come back, but I couldn't stay still a second; it would a killed me; I had to run, and I did. And so I kept on running, by the hour, and listening, and shouting; but never a sound did ever I hear; and whenever I stopped just a moment and held my breath to listen, it was the awfulest stillness that ever was, and I couldn't stand it and had to run on again.
"When I got so beat out and tired I couldn't run any more, I walked; and when the fog went off at last and I looked over my shoulder and there was a tall smoke going up in the sky miles across the plain behind me, I says to myself if that was ahead of me it might be Huck and Brace camping and waiting for me; but it's in the wrong direction, and maybe it's Injuns and not whites; so I wouldn't take any chances on it, but kept right on; and by and by I thought I could see something away off on the prairie, and it was Brace, but I didn't know it, and so I hid. I saw him, or something, twice more before night, and I hid both times; and I walked, between times, further and further away from that smoke and stuck to ground that wouldn't leave much of a track; and in the night I walked and crawled, together, because I couldn't bear to keep still, and was so hungry, and so scratched up with cactuses, and getting kind of out of my head besides; but the storm drove me up onto a swell to get out of the water, and there I staid, and took it. Brace he searched for me till dark, and then struck for home, calculating to strike for the camp fire and lead his horse and pick his way; but the storm was too heavy for that, and he had to stop and give up that notion; and besides you let the fire go out, anyway. I went crawling off as soon as dawn come, and making a good trail, the ground was so wet; and Brace found it and then he found me; and the next time I get down to cinch up a mule in the fog I'll notify the rest of you; and the next time I'm lost and see a smoke I'll go for it, I don't care if it comes out of the pit."
WE WAS away along up the North Fork of the Platte, now. When we started again, the Injuns was two or three days ahead of us, and their trail was pretty much washed out, but Brace didn't mind it, he judged he knowed where they was striking for. He had been reading the signs in their old camps, all these days, and he said these Sioux was Ogillallahs. We struck a hilly country, now, and traveled the day through and camped a few miles up a nice valley late in the afternoon on top of a low flattish hill in a grove of small trees. It was an uncommon pretty place, and we picked it out on account of Tom, because he hadn't stood the trip well, and we calculated to rest him there another day or two. The valley was a nearly level swale a mile or a mile and a half wide, and had a little river-bed in it with steep banks, and trees along itnot much of a river, because you could throw a brick across it, but very deep when it was full of water, which it wasn't, now. But Brace said we would find puddles along in its bed, so him and me took the animals and a bucket, and left Tom in camp and struck down our hill and rode across the valley to water them. When we got to the river we found new-made tracks along the bank, and Brace said there was about twenty horses in that party, and there was white men in it, because some of the horses had shoes on, and likely they was from out Fort Laramie way.
There was a puddle or two, but Brace couldn't get down the banks easy; so he told me to wait with the mules, and if he didn't find a better place he would come back and rig some way to get up and down the bank here. Then he rode off down stream and pretty soon the trees hid him. By and by an antelope darts by me and I looked up the river and around a corner of the timber comes two men, riding fast. When they got to me they reined up and begun to ask me questions. They was half drunk, and a mighty rough looking couple, and their clothes didn't help them much, being old greasy buckskin, just about black with dirt. I was afraid of them. They asked me who I was, and where I come from, and how many was with me, and where we was camped; and I told them my name was Archibald Thompson, and says:
"Our camp's down at the foot of the valley, and we're traveling for pap's health, he's very sick, we can't travel no more till he gets better, and there ain't nobody to take care of him but me and aunt Mary and Sis, and so we're in a heap of troub"
"It's all a lie!" one of them breaks in. "You've stole them animals."
"You bet he has," says the other. "Why, I know this one myself; he belongs to old Vaskiss the trader, up at the Fort, and I'm dead certain I've seen one of the others somewheres."
"Seen him? I reckon you have. Belongs to Roubidou the blacksmith, and he'll be powerful glad we've found him again. I knowed him in a minute. Come, boy, I'm right down sorry for your sick pap, and poor aunt Mary and Sis, but all the same you'll go along back to our camp, and you want to be mighty civil and go mighty careful, or first you know you'll get hung."
First I didn't know what to do; but I had to work my mind quick, and I struck a sort of an idea, the best I could think of, right off, that way. I says to myself, it's two to one these is horse-thieves, because Brace says there's a plenty of them in these regions; and so I reckon they'd like to get one or two more while they're at it. Then I up and says:
"Gents, as sure as I'm here I never stole the animals; and if I'll prove it to you you'll let me go, won't you?"
"How're you going to prove it?"
"I'll do it easy if you'll come along with me, for we bought two mules that's almost just like these from the Injuns day before yesterday, and maybe they stole 'em, I don't know, but we didn't, that's sure."
They looked at each other, and says:
"Where are theydown at your camp?"
"No; they're only down here three or four hundred yards. Sister Mary she"
"Has she got them?"
"Anybody with her?"
"Trot along, then, and don't you try to come any tricks, boy, or you'll get hurt."
I didn't wait for a second invite, but started right along, keeping a sharp lookout for Brace, and getting my yell ready, soon as I should see him. I edged ahead, and edged ahead, all I could, and they notified me a couple of times not to shove along so fast, because there warn's no hurry; and pretty soon they noticed Brace's trail, and sung out to me to halt a minute, and bent down over their saddles, and checked up their speed, and was mightily interested, as I could see when I looked back. I didn't halt, but jogged ahead, and kept widening the distance. They sung out again, and threatened me, and then I brushed by Brace's horse, in the trees, and knowed Brace was down the bank or close by, so I raised a yell and put up my speed to just the highest notch the mules could reach. I looked back, and here they come and next comes a bullet whizzing by!! I whacked away for life and death, and looked back and they was gaining; looked back again, and see Brace booming after the hind one like a house afire, and swinging the long coils of his lariat over his head; then he sent it sailing through the air, and as it scooped that fellow in, Brace reined back his horse and yanked him out of his saddle, and then come tearing ahead again, dragging him. He yelled to me to get out of range, and so I turned out sudden and looked back, and my man had wheeled and was raising his gun on Brace, but Brace's pistol was too quick for him, and down he went, out of his saddle.
Well, we had two dead men on our hands, and I felt pretty crawly, and didn't like to look at them; but Brace allowed it warn's a very unpleasant sight, considering they tried to kill me. He said we must hurry into camp, now, and get ready for trouble; so we shoved for camp, and took the two new horses and the men's guns and things with us, not waiting to water our animals.
It was nearly dark. We kept a watch-out towards up the river, but didn't see anything stirring. When we got home we still watched from the edge of the grove, but didn't see anything, and no sign of that gang's camp fire; then Brace said we was probably safe from them for the rest of the night, so we would rest the animals three or four hours, and then start out and get as well ahead as we could, and keep ahead as long as this blamed Friday-antelope luck would let us, if Tom could stand the travel.
It come on starlight, a real beautiful starlight, and all the world as still and lovely as Sunday. By and by Brace said it would be a good idea to find out where the thieves was camped, so we could give it a wide berth when we started; and he said I could come along if I wanted to; and he took his gun along, this time, and I took one of the thieves' guns. We took the two fresh horses and rode down across the valley and struck the river, and then went pretty cautious up it. We went as much as two mile, and not a sign of a camp fire anywheres. So we kept on, wondering where it could be, because we could see a long ways up the valley. And then all of a sudden we heard people laugh, and not very far off, maybe forty or fifty yards. It come from the river. We went back a hundred yards, and tied the horses amongst the trees, and then back again afoot till we was close to the place, where we heard it before, and slipped in amongst the trees and listened, and heard the voices again, pretty close by. Then we crept along on our knees, slow and careful, to the edge of the bank, through the bush, and there was the camp, a little ways up, and right in the dry bed of the river; two big buffalo-skins lodges, a band of horses tied, and eight men carousing and gambling around a fire all white men, and the roughest kind, and prime drunk. Brace said they had camped there so their camp couldn't be seen easy, but they might as well camped in the open as go and get drunk and make such a noise. He said they was horse thieves, certain.
We was interested, and stayed looking a considerable time. But the liquor begun to beat them, and first one and then another went gaping and stretching to the tents and turned in. And then another one started, and the others tried to make him stay up, because it was his watch, but he said he was drunk and sleepy and didn't want to watch, and said "Let Jack and Bill stand my watch, as long they like to be up latethey'll be in directly, like as not."
But the others threatened to lick him if he didn't stand his watch; so he grumbled, but give in, and got his gun and set down; and wien the others was all gone to roost, he just stretched himself out and went to snoring as comfortable as anybody.
We left, then, and sneaked down to where our horses was, and rode away, leaving the rapscallions to sleep it out and wait for Jack and Bill to come, but we reckoned they'd have to wait a most notorious long time first.
We rode down the river to where Brace was when I yelled to him when the thieves was after me; and he said he had dug some steps in the bank there with his bowie, and we could finish the job in a little while, and when we broke camp and started we would bring our mules there and water them. So we tied our horses and went down into the river bed to the puddle that was there, and laid down on our breasts to take a drink; but Brace says:
"Hello, what's that?"
It was as still as death before, but you could hear a faint, steady, rising sound, now, up the river. We held our breath and listened. You could see a good stretch up it, and tolerable clear, too, the starlight was so strong. The sound kept growing and growing, very fast. Then all of a sudden Brace says:
"Jump for the bank! I know what that is."
It's always my plan to jump first, and ask afterwards. So I done it. Brace says:
"There's a water-spout broke loose up country somewheres, and you'll see sights mighty soon, now."
"Do they break when there ain't no clouds in the sky?" I says, judging I had him.
"Ne'er you mind," he says, "there was clouds where this one broke. I've seen this kind of thing before, and I know that sound. Fasten your horse just as tight as you can, or he'll break loose presently."
The sound got bigger and bigger, and away up yonder it was just one big dull thundering roar. We looked up the river a piece, and see something coming down its bed like dim white snakes writhing along. When it went hissing and sizzling by us it was shallow foamy water. About twenty yards behind it comes a solid wall of water four foot high, and nearly straight up and down, and before you could wink it went rumbling and howling by like a whirlwind, and carrying logs along, and them thieves, too, and their horses and tents, and tossing them up in sight, and then under again, and grinding them to hash, and the noise was just awful, you couldn't a heard it thunder; and our horses was plunging and pitching, and trying their best to break loose. Well, before we could turn around the water was over the banks and ankle deep.
"Out of this, Huck, and shin for camp, or we're goners!"
We was mounted and off in a second, with the water chasing after us. We rode for life, we went like the wind, but we didn't have to use whip or spur, the horses didn't need no encouragement. Half way across the valley we met the water flooding down from above; and from there on, the horses was up to their knees, sometimes, yes, and even up to their bellies towards the last. All hands was glad when we struck our hill and sailed up it out of danger.
OUR LITTLE low hill was an island, now, and we couldn't a got away from it if we had wanted to. We all three set around and watched the water rise. It rose wonderful fast; just walked up the long, gradual slope, as you may say, it come up so fast. It didn't stop rising for two or three hours; and then that whole valley was just a big level river a mile to a mile and a half wide, and deep enough to swim the biggest ship that was ever built, and no end of dim black drift logs spinning around and sailing by in the currents on its surface.
Brace said it hadn't took the water-spout an hour to dump all that ocean of water and finish up its job, but like enough it would be a week before the valley was free of it again; so Tom would have considerable more time than we bargained to give him to get well in.
Me and Tom was down-hearted and miserable on account of Jim and Peggy and Flaxy, because we reckoned it was all up with them and the Injuns, now; and so at last Tom thronged out a feeler to see what Brace thought. He never said anything about the others, but only about the Injuns; said the water-spout must a got the Injuns, hadn't it, But Brace says:
"No, nary an Injun.Water-spouts don't catch any but white folks. There warn't ever a white man that could tell when a water-spout's coming; and how the nation an Injun can tell is something I never could make out, but they can. When it's perfectly clear weather, and other people ain't expecting anything, they'll say, all of a sudden, 'heap water coming,' and pack up in a hurry and shove for high ground. They say they smell it. I don't know whether that's so or not; but one thing I do know, a waterspout often catches a white man, but it don't ever catch an Injun."
Next morning there we was, on an island, same as before; just a level, shining ocean everywheres, and perfectly still and quiet, like it was asleep. And awful lonesome.
Next day the same, only lonesomer than ever.
And next day just the same, and mighty hard work to put in the time. Mostly we slept. And after a long sleep, wake up, and eat dinner, and look out over the tiresome water, and go to sleep again; and wake up again, by and by, and see the sun go down and turn it into blood, and fire, and melted butter, and one thing or another, awful beautiful, and soft, and lovely, but solemn and lonesome till you couldn't rest.
We had eight days of that, and the longer we waited for that ocean to play out and run off, the bigger the notion I got of a water-spout that could puke out such a mortal lot of water as that in an hour.
We left, then, and made a good day's travel, and by sundown begun to come onto fresh buffalo carcases. There was so many of them that Brace reckoned there was a big party of Injuns near, or else whites from the fort.
In the morning we hadn't gone five miles till we struck a big camp where Injuns had been, and hadn't gone more than a day or two. Brace said there was as many as a hundred of them, altogether, men, women and children, and made up from more than one band of Sioux, but Brulé's, mostly, as he judged by the signs. Brace said things looked like these Injuns was camped here a considerable time.
Of course we warn't thinking about our Injuns, or expecting to run across any signs of them or the prisoners, but Tom he found an arrow, broke in two, which was wound with blue silk thread down by the feather, and he said he knowed it was Hog Face's, because he got the silk for him from Peggy and watched him wind it. So Brace begun to look around for other signs, and he believed he found some. Well, I was ciphering around in a general way myself, and outside of the camp I run across a ragged piece of Peggy's dress as big as a big handkerchief, and it had blood on it. It most froze me to see that, because I judged she was killed; and if she warn't, it stood to reason she was hurt. I hid the rag under a buffalo chip, because if Brace was to see it he might suspicion she wasn't dead after all the pains we had took to make him believe she was; and just then he sings out "Run here, boys," and Tom he come running from one way and I the other, and when we got to him, there in the middle of the camp, he points down and says:
"Therethat's the shoe-print of a white woman. Seeyou can see, where she turned it down to one side, how thin the sole is. She's white, and she's a prisoner with this gang of Injuns. I don't understand it. I'm afraid there's general trouble broke out between the whites and Injuns; and if that's so, I've got to go mighty cautious from this out." He looks at the track again, and says, "Poor thing, it's hard luck for her," and went mumbling off, and never noticed that me and Tom was most dead with uneasiness, for we could see plain enough it was Peggy's print, and was afraid he would see it himself, or think he did, any minute. His back warn't more than turned before me and Tom had tramped on the print once or twice-- just enough to take the clearness out of it, because we didn't know but he might come back for another look.
Pretty soon we see him over yonder looking at something, and we went there, and it was four stakes drove in the ground; and he looks us very straight and steady in the eyes, first me and then Tom, and then me again, till it got pretty sultry; then he says, cold and level, but just as if he'd been asking us a question:
'Well, I believe you. Come along."
Me and Tom followed along, a piece behind; and Tom says:
"Huck, he's so afraid she's alive, that it's just all he can do to believe that yarn of ours about burying her. And pretty soon, now, like enough, he'll find out she ain't dead, after all."
"That's just what's worrying me, Tom. It puts us in a scrape, and I don't see no way out of it; because what can we say when he tackles us about lying to him?"
"I know what to say, well enough."
"You do? Well I wish you'd tell me, for I'm blamed if I see any way outI wouldn't know a single word to say."
"I'll say this, to him. I'll say, suppose it was likely you was going to get knocked in the head with a club some time or other, but it warn't quite certain; would you want to be knocked in the head straight off, so as to make it certain, or wouldn't you rusher wait and see if you mightn't live your life out and not happen to get clubbed at all? Of course, he would say. Then I would put it at him straight, and say, wasn't you happier, when we made you think she was dead, than you was before? Didn't it keep you happy all this time? Of course. Well, wasn't it worth a little small lie like that to keep you happy instead of awfully miserable many days and nights? Of course. And wasn't it likely she would be dead before you ever run across her again?which would make our lie plenty good enough. True again. And at last I would up and say, just you put yourself in our place, Brace Johnson: now, honor bright, would you have told the truth, that time, and broke the heart of the man that was Peggy Mills's idol? If you could, you are not a man, you are a devil; if you could and did, you'd be lower and hard-hearteder than the devils, you'd be an Injun. That's what I'll say to him, Huck, if the time ever comes."
Now that was the cleanest and slickest way out that ever was; and who would ever a thought of it but Tom Sawyer? I never seen the like of that boy for just solid gobs of brains and level headedness. It made me comfortable, right away, because I knowed very well Brace Johnson couldn't ever get around that, nor under it nor over it nor through it; he would have to answer up and confess he would a told that lie his own self, and would have went on backing it up and standing by it, too, as long as he had a rag of a lie left in him to do it with.
I noticed, but I never said anything, that Tom was putting the Injuns below the devils, now. You see, he had about got it through his noodle, by this time, that book Indians and real Injuns is different.
Brace was unslinging the pack; so we went to him to see what he was doing it for, and he says:
"Well, I don't understand that white woman's being with this band of Injuns. Of course may be she was took prisoner years ago, away yonder on the edge of the States, and has been sold from band to band ever since, all the way across the Plains. I say of course that may be the explanation of it, but as long as I don't know that that's the way of it, I ain't going to take any chances. I'll just do the other thing: I'll consider that this woman is a new prisoner, and that her being here means that there's trouble broke out betwixt the Injuns and the whites, and so I'll act according. That is, I'll keep shy of Injuns till I've fixed myself up a little, so's to fit the new circumstances."
He had got a needle and some thread out of the pack, and a little paper bag full of dried bugs, and butterflies, and lizards, and frogs, and such like creatures, and he sat down and went to sewing them fast to the lapels of his buckskin coat, and all over his slouch hat, till he was that fantastic he looked like he had just broke out of a museum when he got it all done. Then he says:
"Now if I act strange and foolish, the Injuns will think I'm crazy; so I'll be safe and all right. They are afraid to hurt a crazy man, because they think he's under His special persecution" (he meant the Bad God, you know) "for his sins; and they kind of avoid him, and don't much like to be around him, because they think he's bad medicine, as they call it'medicine' meaning luck, about as near as you can put it into English. I got this idea from a chap they called a naturalist.
"A war party of Injuns dropped onto him, and if he'd a knowed his danger, he'd a been scared to death; but he didn't know a war party from a peace party, and so he didn't act afraid, and that bothered the Injuns, they didn't know what to make of it; and when they see how anxious and particular he was about his bugs, and how fond of them and stuck after them he seemed to be, they judged he was out of his mind, and so they let him go his own gait, and never touched him. I've gone fixed for the crazy line ever since."
Then he packed the mule again, and says:
"Now we'll get along again, and follow the trail of these Injuns."
But it bore nearly straight north, and that warn't what he was expecting; so he rode off on the desert and struck another trail which bore more to the west, and this one he examined very careful, and mumbled a good deal to himself; but said at last that this was our Injuns, though there was more horses in the party than there was before. He knowed it by signs, he said, but he didn't say what the signs was.
We struck out on this trail, and followed it a couple of days...
This text was scanned from the University of California Press's marvelous edition.
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