"GIT up! What you 'bout?"
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I opened my eyes and looked around, trying to make out where I was. It
was after sun-up, and I had been sound asleep. Pap was standing over me
looking sour and sick, too. He says:
"What you doin' with this gun?"
I judged he didn't know nothing about what he had been doing, so I says:
"Somebody tried to get in, so I was laying for him."
"Why didn't you roust me out?"
"Well, I tried to, but I couldn't; I couldn't budge you."
"Well, all right. Don't stand there palavering all day, but out with you
and see if there's a fish on the lines for breakfast. I'll be along in a
He unlocked the door, and I cleared out up the river-bank. I noticed
some pieces of limbs and such things floating down, and a sprinkling of
bark; so I knowed the river had begun to rise. I reckoned I would have
great times now if I was over at the town. The June rise used to be
always luck for me; because as soon as that rise begins here comes
cordwood floating down, and pieces of log rafts--sometimes a dozen logs
together; so all you have to do is to catch them and sell them to the
wood-yards and the sawmill.
I went along up the bank with one eye out for pap and t'other one out for
what the rise might fetch along. Well, all at once here comes a canoe;
just a beauty, too, about thirteen or fourteen foot long, riding high
like a duck. I shot head-first off of the bank like a frog, clothes and
all on, and struck out for the canoe. I just expected there'd be
somebody laying down in it, because people often done that to fool folks,
and when a chap had pulled a skiff out most to it they'd raise up and
laugh at him. But it warn't so this time. It was a drift-canoe sure
enough, and I clumb in and paddled her ashore. Thinks I, the old man
will be glad when he sees this--she's worth ten dollars. But when I
got to shore pap wasn't in sight yet, and as I was running her into a
little creek like a gully, all hung over with vines and willows, I struck
another idea: I judged I'd hide her good, and then, 'stead of taking to
the woods when I run off, I'd go down the river about fifty mile and camp
in one place for good, and not have such a rough time tramping on foot.
It was pretty close to the shanty, and I thought I heard the old man
coming all the time; but I got her hid; and then I out and looked around
a bunch of willows, and there was the old man down the path a piece just
drawing a bead on a bird with his gun. So he hadn't seen anything.
When he got along I was hard at it taking up a "trot" line. He abused me
a little for being so slow; but I told him I fell in the river, and that
was what made me so long. I knowed he would see I was wet, and then he
would be asking questions. We got five catfish off the lines and went
While we laid off after breakfast to sleep up, both of us being about
wore out, I got to thinking that if I could fix up some way to keep pap
and the widow from trying to follow me, it would be a certainer thing
than trusting to luck to get far enough off before they missed me; you
see, all kinds of things might happen. Well, I didn't see no way for a
while, but by and by pap raised up a minute to drink another barrel of
water, and he says:
"Another time a man comes a-prowling round here you roust me out, you
hear? That man warn't here for no good. I'd a shot him. Next time you
roust me out, you hear?"
Then he dropped down and went to sleep again; but what he had been saying
give me the very idea I wanted. I says to myself, I can fix it now so
nobody won't think of following me.
About twelve o'clock we turned out and went along up the bank. The river
was coming up pretty fast, and lots of driftwood going by on the rise.
By and by along comes part of a log raft--nine logs fast together. We
went out with the skiff and towed it ashore. Then we had dinner.
Anybody but pap would a waited and seen the day through, so as to catch
more stuff; but that warn't pap's style. Nine logs was enough for one
time; he must shove right over to town and sell. So he locked me in and
took the skiff, and started off towing the raft about half-past three. I
judged he wouldn't come back that night. I waited till I reckoned he had
got a good start; then I out with my saw, and went to work on that log
again. Before he was t'other side of the river I was out of the hole;
him and his raft was just a speck on the water away off yonder.
I took the sack of corn meal and took it to where the canoe was hid, and
shoved the vines and branches apart and put it in; then I done the same
with the side of bacon; then the whisky-jug. I took all the coffee and
sugar there was, and all the ammunition; I took the wadding; I took the
bucket and gourd; I took a dipper and a tin cup, and my old saw and two
blankets, and the skillet and the coffee-pot. I took fish-lines and
matches and other things--everything that was worth a cent. I cleaned
out the place. I wanted an axe, but there wasn't any, only the one out
at the woodpile, and I knowed why I was going to leave that. I fetched
out the gun, and now I was done.
I had wore the ground a good deal crawling out of the hole and dragging
out so many things. So I fixed that as good as I could from the outside
by scattering dust on the place, which covered up the smoothness and the
sawdust. Then I fixed the piece of log back into its place, and put two
rocks under it and one against it to hold it there, for it was bent up at
that place and didn't quite touch ground. If you stood four or five foot
away and didn't know it was sawed, you wouldn't never notice it; and
besides, this was the back of the cabin, and it warn't likely anybody
would go fooling around there.
It was all grass clear to the canoe, so I hadn't left a track. I
followed around to see. I stood on the bank and looked out over the
river. All safe. So I took the gun and went up a piece into the woods,
and was hunting around for some birds when I see a wild pig; hogs soon
went wild in them bottoms after they had got away from the prairie farms.
I shot this fellow and took him into camp.
I took the axe and smashed in the door. I beat it and hacked it
considerable a-doing it. I fetched the pig in, and took him back nearly
to the table and hacked into his throat with the axe, and laid him down
on the ground to bleed; I say ground because it was ground--hard packed,
and no boards. Well, next I took an old sack and put a lot of big rocks
in it--all I could drag--and I started it from the pig, and dragged it
to the door and through the woods down to the river and dumped it in, and
down it sunk, out of sight. You could easy see that something had been
dragged over the ground. I did wish Tom Sawyer was there; I knowed he
would take an interest in this kind of business, and throw in the fancy
touches. Nobody could spread himself like Tom Sawyer in such a thing as
Well, last I pulled out some of my hair, and blooded the axe good, and
stuck it on the back side, and slung the axe in the corner. Then I took
up the pig and held him to my breast with my jacket (so he couldn't drip)
till I got a good piece below the house and then dumped him into the
river. Now I thought of something else. So I went and got the bag of
meal and my old saw out of the canoe, and fetched them to the house. I
took the bag to where it used to stand, and ripped a hole in the bottom
of it with the saw, for there warn't no knives and forks on the place--
pap done everything with his clasp-knife about the cooking. Then I
carried the sack about a hundred yards across the grass and through the
willows east of the house, to a shallow lake that was five mile wide and
full of rushes--and ducks too, you might say, in the season. There was a
slough or a creek leading out of it on the other side that went miles
away, I don't know where, but it didn't go to the river. The meal sifted
out and made a little track all the way to the lake. I dropped pap's
whetstone there too, so as to look like it had been done by accident.
Then I tied up the rip in the meal sack with a string, so it wouldn't
leak no more, and took it and my saw to the canoe again.
It was about dark now; so I dropped the canoe down the river under some
willows that hung over the bank, and waited for the moon to rise. I made
fast to a willow; then I took a bite to eat, and by and by laid down in
the canoe to smoke a pipe and lay out a plan. I says to myself, they'll
follow the track of that sackful of rocks to the shore and then drag the
river for me. And they'll follow that meal track to the lake and go
browsing down the creek that leads out of it to find the robbers that
killed me and took the things. They won't ever hunt the river for
anything but my dead carcass. They'll soon get tired of that, and won't
bother no more about me. All right; I can stop anywhere I want to.
Jackson's Island is good enough for me; I know that island pretty well,
and nobody ever comes there. And then I can paddle over to town nights,
and slink around and pick up things I want. Jackson's Island's the place.
I was pretty tired, and the first thing I knowed I was asleep. When I
woke up I didn't know where I was for a minute. I set up and looked
around, a little scared. Then I remembered. The river looked miles and
miles across. The moon was so bright I could a counted the drift logs
that went a-slipping along, black and still, hundreds of yards out from
shore. Everything was dead quiet, and it looked late, and SMELT late.
You know what I mean--I don't know the words to put it in.
I took a good gap and a stretch, and was just going to unhitch and start
when I heard a sound away over the water. I listened. Pretty soon I
made it out. It was that dull kind of a regular sound that comes from
oars working in rowlocks when it's a still night. I peeped out through
the willow branches, and there it was--a skiff, away across the water. I
couldn't tell how many was in it. It kept a-coming, and when it was
abreast of me I see there warn't but one man in it. Think's I, maybe
it's pap, though I warn't expecting him. He dropped below me with the
current, and by and by he came a-swinging up shore in the easy water, and
he went by so close I could a reached out the gun and touched him. Well,
it WAS pap, sure enough--and sober, too, by the way he laid his oars.
I didn't lose no time. The next minute I was a-spinning down stream soft
but quick in the shade of the bank. I made two mile and a half, and then
struck out a quarter of a mile or more towards the middle of the river,
because pretty soon I would be passing the ferry landing, and people
might see me and hail me. I got out amongst the driftwood, and then laid
down in the bottom of the canoe and let her float. I laid there, and had
a good rest and a smoke out of my pipe, looking away into the sky; not a
cloud in it. The sky looks ever so deep when you lay down on your back
in the moonshine; I never knowed it before. And how far a body can hear
on the water such nights! I heard people talking at the ferry landing.
I heard what they said, too--every word of it. One man said it was
getting towards the long days and the short nights now. T'other one said
THIS warn't one of the short ones, he reckoned--and then they laughed,
and he said it over again, and they laughed again; then they waked up
another fellow and told him, and laughed, but he didn't laugh; he ripped
out something brisk, and said let him alone. The first fellow said he
'lowed to tell it to his old woman--she would think it was pretty good;
but he said that warn't nothing to some things he had said in his time.
I heard one man say it was nearly three o'clock, and he hoped daylight
wouldn't wait more than about a week longer. After that the talk got
further and further away, and I couldn't make out the words any more; but
I could hear the mumble, and now and then a laugh, too, but it seemed a
long ways off.
I was away below the ferry now. I rose up, and there was Jackson's
Island, about two mile and a half down stream, heavy timbered and
standing up out of the middle of the river, big and dark and solid, like
a steamboat without any lights. There warn't any signs of the bar at the
head--it was all under water now.
It didn't take me long to get there. I shot past the head at a ripping
rate, the current was so swift, and then I got into the dead water and
landed on the side towards the Illinois shore. I run the canoe into a
deep dent in the bank that I knowed about; I had to part the willow
branches to get in; and when I made fast nobody could a seen the canoe
from the outside.
I went up and set down on a log at the head of the island, and looked out
on the big river and the black driftwood and away over to the town, three
mile away, where there was three or four lights twinkling. A monstrous
big lumber-raft was about a mile up stream, coming along down, with a
lantern in the middle of it. I watched it come creeping down, and when
it was most abreast of where I stood I heard a man say, "Stern oars,
there! heave her head to stabboard!" I heard that just as plain as if
the man was by my side.
There was a little gray in the sky now; so I stepped into the woods, and
laid down for a nap before breakfast.