The Complete Works of

Mark-Twain    

[http://www.mtwain.com]

 
 
Mark Twain > Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn > Chapter XXII

Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

Chapter XXII


THEY swarmed up towards Sherburn's house, a-whooping and raging like
Injuns, and everything had to clear the way or get run over and tromped
to mush, and it was awful to see. Children was heeling it ahead of the
mob, screaming and trying to get out of the way; and every window along
the road was full of women's heads, and there was nigger boys in every
tree, and bucks and wenches looking over every fence; and as soon as the
mob would get nearly to them they would break and skaddle back out of
reach. Lots of the women and girls was crying and taking on, scared most
to death.

They swarmed up in front of Sherburn's palings as thick as they could jam
together, and you couldn't hear yourself think for the noise. It was a
little twenty-foot yard. Some sung out "Tear down the fence! tear down
the fence!" Then there was a racket of ripping and tearing and smashing,
and down she goes, and the front wall of the crowd begins to roll in like
a wave.

Just then Sherburn steps out on to the roof of his little front porch,
with a double-barrel gun in his hand, and takes his stand, perfectly ca'm
and deliberate, not saying a word. The racket stopped, and the wave
sucked back.

Sherburn never said a word--just stood there, looking down. The
stillness was awful creepy and uncomfortable. Sherburn run his eye slow
along the crowd; and wherever it struck the people tried a little to out-
gaze him, but they couldn't; they dropped their eyes and looked sneaky.
Then pretty soon Sherburn sort of laughed; not the pleasant kind, but the
kind that makes you feel like when you are eating bread that's got sand
in it.

Then he says, slow and scornful:

"The idea of YOU lynching anybody! It's amusing. The idea of you
thinking you had pluck enough to lynch a MAN! Because you're brave
enough to tar and feather poor friendless cast-out women that come along
here, did that make you think you had grit enough to lay your hands on a
MAN? Why, a MAN'S safe in the hands of ten thousand of your kind--as
long as it's daytime and you're not behind him.

"Do I know you? I know you clear through was born and raised in the
South, and I've lived in the North; so I know the average all around.
The average man's a coward. In the North he lets anybody walk over him
that wants to, and goes home and prays for a humble spirit to bear it.
In the South one man all by himself, has stopped a stage full of men in
the daytime, and robbed the lot. Your newspapers call you a brave people
so much that you think you are braver than any other people--whereas
you're just AS brave, and no braver. Why don't your juries hang
murderers? Because they're afraid the man's friends will shoot them in
the back, in the dark--and it's just what they WOULD do.

"So they always acquit; and then a MAN goes in the night, with a hundred
masked cowards at his back and lynches the rascal. Your mistake is, that
you didn't bring a man with you; that's one mistake, and the other is
that you didn't come in the dark and fetch your masks. You brought PART
of a man--Buck Harkness, there--and if you hadn't had him to start you,
you'd a taken it out in blowing.

"You didn't want to come. The average man don't like trouble and danger.
YOU don't like trouble and danger. But if only HALF a man--like Buck
Harkness, there--shouts 'Lynch him! lynch him!' you're afraid to back
down--afraid you'll be found out to be what you are--COWARDS--and so
you raise a yell, and hang yourselves on to that half-a-man's coat-tail,
and come raging up here, swearing what big things you're going to do.
The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that's what an army is--a mob; they
don't fight with courage that's born in them, but with courage that's
borrowed from their mass, and from their officers. But a mob without any
MAN at the head of it is BENEATH pitifulness. Now the thing for YOU to
do is to droop your tails and go home and crawl in a hole. If any real
lynching's going to be done it will be done in the dark, Southern
fashion; and when they come they'll bring their masks, and fetch a MAN
along. Now LEAVE--and take your half-a-man with you"--tossing his gun up
across his left arm and cocking it when he says this.

The crowd washed back sudden, and then broke all apart, and went tearing
off every which way, and Buck Harkness he heeled it after them, looking
tolerable cheap. I could a stayed if I wanted to, but I didn't want to.

I went to the circus and loafed around the back side till the watchman
went by, and then dived in under the tent. I had my twenty-dollar gold
piece and some other money, but I reckoned I better save it, because
there ain't no telling how soon you are going to need it, away from home
and amongst strangers that way. You can't be too careful. I ain't
opposed to spending money on circuses when there ain't no other way, but
there ain't no use in WASTING it on them.

It was a real bully circus. It was the splendidest sight that ever was
when they all come riding in, two and two, a gentleman and lady, side by
side, the men just in their drawers and undershirts, and no shoes nor
stirrups, and resting their hands on their thighs easy and comfortable--
there must a been twenty of them--and every lady with a lovely
complexion, and perfectly beautiful, and looking just like a gang of real
sure-enough queens, and dressed in clothes that cost millions of dollars,
and just littered with diamonds. It was a powerful fine sight; I never
see anything so lovely. And then one by one they got up and stood, and
went a-weaving around the ring so gentle and wavy and graceful, the men
looking ever so tall and airy and straight, with their heads bobbing and
skimming along, away up there under the tent-roof, and every lady's rose-
leafy dress flapping soft and silky around her hips, and she looking like
the most loveliest parasol.

And then faster and faster they went, all of them dancing, first one foot
out in the air and then the other, the horses leaning more and more, and
the ringmaster going round and round the center-pole, cracking his whip
and shouting "Hi!--hi!" and the clown cracking jokes behind him; and by
and by all hands dropped the reins, and every lady put her knuckles on
her hips and every gentleman folded his arms, and then how the horses did
lean over and hump themselves! And so one after the other they all
skipped off into the ring, and made the sweetest bow I ever see, and then
scampered out, and everybody clapped their hands and went just about
wild.

Well, all through the circus they done the most astonishing things; and
all the time that clown carried on so it most killed the people. The
ringmaster couldn't ever say a word to him but he was back at him quick
as a wink with the funniest things a body ever said; and how he ever
COULD think of so many of them, and so sudden and so pat, was what I
couldn't noway understand. Why, I couldn't a thought of them in a year.
And by and by a drunk man tried to get into the ring--said he wanted to
ride; said he could ride as well as anybody that ever was. They argued
and tried to keep him out, but he wouldn't listen, and the whole show
come to a standstill. Then the people begun to holler at him and make
fun of him, and that made him mad, and he begun to rip and tear; so that
stirred up the people, and a lot of men begun to pile down off of the
benches and swarm towards the ring, saying, "Knock him down! throw him
out!" and one or two women begun to scream. So, then, the ringmaster he
made a little speech, and said he hoped there wouldn't be no disturbance,
and if the man would promise he wouldn't make no more trouble he would
let him ride if he thought he could stay on the horse. So everybody
laughed and said all right, and the man got on. The minute he was on, the
horse begun to rip and tear and jump and cavort around, with two circus
men hanging on to his bridle trying to hold him, and the drunk man
hanging on to his neck, and his heels flying in the air every jump, and
the whole crowd of people standing up shouting and laughing till tears
rolled down. And at last, sure enough, all the circus men could do, the
horse broke loose, and away he went like the very nation, round and round
the ring, with that sot laying down on him and hanging to his neck, with
first one leg hanging most to the ground on one side, and then t'other
one on t'other side, and the people just crazy. It warn't funny to me,
though; I was all of a tremble to see his danger. But pretty soon he
struggled up astraddle and grabbed the bridle, a-reeling this way and
that; and the next minute he sprung up and dropped the bridle and stood!
and the horse a-going like a house afire too. He just stood up there, a-
sailing around as easy and comfortable as if he warn't ever drunk in his
life--and then he begun to pull off his clothes and sling them. He shed
them so thick they kind of clogged up the air, and altogether he shed
seventeen suits. And, then, there he was, slim and handsome, and dressed
the gaudiest and prettiest you ever saw, and he lit into that horse with
his whip and made him fairly hum--and finally skipped off, and made his
bow and danced off to the dressing-room, and everybody just a-howling
with pleasure and astonishment.

Then the ringmaster he see how he had been fooled, and he WAS the sickest
ringmaster you ever see, I reckon. Why, it was one of his own men! He
had got up that joke all out of his own head, and never let on to nobody.
Well, I felt sheepish enough to be took in so, but I wouldn't a been in
that ringmaster's place, not for a thousand dollars. I don't know; there
may be bullier circuses than what that one was, but I never struck them
yet. Anyways, it was plenty good enough for ME; and wherever I run across
it, it can have all of MY custom every time.

Well, that night we had OUR show; but there warn't only about twelve
people there--just enough to pay expenses. And they laughed all the
time, and that made the duke mad; and everybody left, anyway, before the
show was over, but one boy which was asleep. So the duke said these
Arkansaw lunkheads couldn't come up to Shakespeare; what they wanted was
low comedy--and maybe something ruther worse than low comedy, he
reckoned. He said he could size their style. So next morning he got
some big sheets of wrapping paper and some black paint, and drawed off
some handbills, and stuck them up all over the village. The bills said:

AT THE COURT HOUSE! FOR 3 NIGHTS ONLY! The World-Renowned Tragedians
DAVID GARRICK THE YOUNGER! AND EDMUND KEAN THE ELDER! Of the London and
Continental Theatres, In their Thrilling Tragedy of THE KING'S
CAMELEOPARD, OR THE ROYAL NONESUCH ! ! ! Admission 50 cents.

Then at the bottom was the biggest line of all, which said:

LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED.

"There," says he, "if that line don't fetch them, I don't know Arkansaw!"

< Back
Forward >












Index Index

Other Authors Other Authors


Mark Twain. Copyright 2008, mtwain.com
Contact the webmaster
Disclaimer here. Privacy Policy here.