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Mark Twain > Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn > Chapter XXI

Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

Chapter XXI


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

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

After dinner the duke says:

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

"What's onkores, Bilgewater?"

The duke told him, and then says:

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

"Hamlet's which?"

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

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

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

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

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

We struck it mighty lucky; there was going to be a circus there that
afternoon, and the country people was already beginning to come in, in
all kinds of old shackly wagons, and on horses. The circus would leave
before night, so our show would have a pretty good chance. The duke he
hired the courthouse, and we went around and stuck up our bills. They
read like this:

Shaksperean Revival ! ! ! Wonderful Attraction! For One Night Only! The
world renowned tragedians, David Garrick the Younger, of Drury Lane
Theatre London, and Edmund Kean the elder, of the Royal Haymarket
Theatre, Whitechapel, Pudding Lane, Piccadilly, London, and the Royal
Continental Theatres, in their sublime Shaksperean Spectacle entitled The
Balcony Scene in Romeo and Juliet ! ! ! Romeo...................Mr.
Garrick Juliet..................Mr. Kean Assisted by the whole strength
of the company! New costumes, new scenes, new appointments! Also: The
thrilling, masterly, and blood-curdling Broad-sword conflict In Richard
III. ! ! ! Richard III.............Mr. Garrick
Richmond................Mr. Kean Also: (by special request) Hamlet's
Immortal Soliloquy ! ! By The Illustrious Kean! Done by him 300
consecutive nights in Paris! For One Night Only, On account of imperative
European engagements! Admission 25 cents; children and servants, 10
cents.

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

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

"Gimme a chaw 'v tobacker, Hank."

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

Maybe Bill he gives him a chaw; maybe he lies and says he ain't got none.
Some of them kinds of loafers never has a cent in the world, nor a chaw
of tobacco of their own. They get all their chawing by borrowing; they
say to a fellow, "I wisht you'd len' me a chaw, Jack, I jist this minute
give Ben Thompson the last chaw I had"--which is a lie pretty much
everytime; it don't fool nobody but a stranger; but Jack ain't no
stranger, so he says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He see me, and rode up and says:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then he turns and goes in. The crowd looked mighty sober; nobody
stirred, and there warn't no more laughing. Boggs rode off blackguarding
Sherburn as loud as he could yell, all down the street; and pretty soon
back he comes and stops before the store, still keeping it up. Some men
crowded around him and tried to get him to shut up, but he wouldn't; they
told him it would be one o'clock in about fifteen minutes, and so he MUST
go home--he must go right away. But it didn't do no good. He cussed
away with all his might, and throwed his hat down in the mud and rode
over it, and pretty soon away he went a-raging down the street again,
with his gray hair a-flying. Everybody that could get a chance at him
tried their best to coax him off of his horse so they could lock him up
and get him sober; but it warn't no use--up the street he would tear
again, and give Sherburn another cussing. By and by somebody says:

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

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

"Boggs!"

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

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

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

Well, pretty soon the whole town was there, squirming and scrouging and
pushing and shoving to get at the window and have a look, but people that
had the places wouldn't give them up, and folks behind them was saying
all the time, "Say, now, you've looked enough, you fellows; 'tain't right
and 'tain't fair for you to stay thar all the time, and never give nobody
a chance; other folks has their rights as well as you."

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

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

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