A NIGHT'S VIGIL
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BENNY she was looking pretty sober, and she sighed some,
now and then; but pretty soon she got to asking about Mary,
and Sid, and Tom's aunt Polly, and then Aunt Sally's
clouds cleared off and she got in a good humor and joined
in on the questions and was her lovingest best self,
and so the rest of the supper went along gay and pleasant.
But the old man he didn't take any hand hardly, and was
absent-minded and restless, and done a considerable amount
of sighing; and it was kind of heart-breaking to see him
so sad and troubled and worried.
By and by, a spell after supper, come a nigger and knocked
on the door and put his head in with his old straw hat
in his hand bowing and scraping, and said his Marse
Brace was out at the stile and wanted his brother,
and was getting tired waiting supper for him, and would
Marse Silas please tell him where he was? I never see
Uncle Silas speak up so sharp and fractious before.
"Am I his brother's keeper?" And then he kind of
wilted together, and looked like he wished he hadn't
spoken so, and then he says, very gentle: "But you needn't
say that, Billy; I was took sudden and irritable, and I
ain't very well these days, and not hardly responsible.
Tell him he ain't here."
And when the nigger was gone he got up and walked the floor,
backwards and forwards, mumbling and muttering to himself
and plowing his hands through his hair. It was real
pitiful to see him. Aunt Sally she whispered to us and
told us not to take notice of him, it embarrassed him.
She said he was always thinking and thinking, since these
troubles come on, and she allowed he didn't more'n about
half know what he was about when the thinking spells was
on him; and she said he walked in his sleep considerable
more now than he used to, and sometimes wandered
around over the house and even outdoors in his sleep,
and if we catched him at it we must let him alone and not
disturb him. She said she reckoned it didn't do him
no harm, and may be it done him good. She said Benny
was the only one that was much help to him these days.
Said Benny appeared to know just when to try to soothe
him and when to leave him alone.
So he kept on tramping up and down the floor and muttering,
till by and by he begun to look pretty tired; then Benny
she went and snuggled up to his side and put one hand
in his and one arm around his waist and walked with him;
and he smiled down on her, and reached down and kissed her;
and so, little by little the trouble went out of his
face and she persuaded him off to his room. They had
very petting ways together, and it was uncommon pretty
Aunt Sally she was busy getting the children ready for bed;
so by and by it got dull and tedious, and me and Tom
took a turn in the moonlight, and fetched up in the
watermelon-patch and et one, and had a good deal of talk.
And Tom said he'd bet the quarreling was all Jubiter's fault,
and he was going to be on hand the first time he got
a chance, and see; and if it was so, he was going to do
his level best to get Uncle Silas to turn him off.
And so we talked and smoked and stuffed watermelons much
as two hours, and then it was pretty late, and when we
got back the house was quiet and dark, and everybody
gone to bed.
Tom he always seen everything, and now he see that the
old green baize work-gown was gone, and said it wasn't
gone when he went out; so he allowed it was curious,
and then we went up to bed.
We could hear Benny stirring around in her room,
which was next to ourn, and judged she was worried
a good deal about her father and couldn't sleep.
We found we couldn't, neither. So we set up a long time,
and smoked and talked in a low voice, and felt pretty
dull and down-hearted. We talked the murder and the ghost
over and over again, and got so creepy and crawly we
couldn't get sleepy nohow and noway.
By and by, when it was away late in the night and all
the sounds was late sounds and solemn, Tom nudged me
and whispers to me to look, and I done it, and there we
see a man poking around in the yard like he didn't know
just what he wanted to do, but it was pretty dim and we
couldn't see him good. Then he started for the stile,
and as he went over it the moon came out strong, and he
had a long-handled shovel over his shoulder, and we see
the white patch on the old work-gown. So Tom says:
"He's a-walking in his sleep. I wish we was allowed
to follow him and see where he's going to. There, he's
turned down by the tobacker-field. Out of sight now.
It's a dreadful pity he can't rest no better."
We waited a long time, but he didn't come back any more,
or if he did he come around the other way; so at last we
was tuckered out and went to sleep and had nightmares,
a million of them. But before dawn we was awake again,
because meantime a storm had come up and been raging,
and the thunder and lightning was awful, and the wind was
a-thrashing the trees around, and the rain was driving down
in slanting sheets, and the gullies was running rivers.
"Looky here, Huck, I'll tell you one thing that's
mighty curious. Up to the time we went out last night
the family hadn't heard about Jake Dunlap being murdered.
Now the men that chased Hal Clayton and Bud Dixon away
would spread the thing around in a half an hour, and every
neighbor that heard it would shin out and fly around
from one farm to t'other and try to be the first to tell
the news. Land, they don't have such a big thing as that
to tell twice in thirty year! Huck, it's mighty strange;
I don't understand it."
So then he was in a fidget for the rain to let up,
so we could turn out and run across some of the people
and see if they would say anything about it to us.
And he said if they did we must be horribly surprised
We was out and gone the minute the rain stopped.
It was just broad day then. We loafed along up the road,
and now and then met a person and stopped and said howdy,
and told them when we come, and how we left the folks
at home, and how long we was going to stay, and all that,
but none of them said a word about that thing; which was
just astonishing, and no mistake. Tom said he believed
if we went to the sycamores we would find that body laying
there solitary and alone, and not a soul around. Said he
believed the men chased the thieves so far into the woods
that the thieves prob'ly seen a good chance and turned
on them at last, and maybe they all killed each other,
and so there wasn't anybody left to tell.
First we knowed, gabbling along that away, we was right at
the sycamores. The cold chills trickled down my back and I
wouldn't budge another step, for all Tom's persuading.
But he couldn't hold in; he'd GOT to see if the boots was
safe on that body yet. So he crope in--and the next minute
out he come again with his eyes bulging he was so excited,
"Huck, it's gone!"
I WAS astonished! I says:
"Tom, you don't mean it."
"It's gone, sure. There ain't a sign of it. The ground
is trampled some, but if there was any blood it's all
washed away by the storm, for it's all puddles and slush
At last I give in, and went and took a look myself; and it
was just as Tom said--there wasn't a sign of a corpse.
"Dern it," I says, "the di'monds is gone. Don't you
reckon the thieves slunk back and lugged him off, Tom?"
"Looks like it. It just does. Now where'd they hide him,
do you reckon?"
"I don't know," I says, disgusted, "and what's more I
don't care. They've got the boots, and that's all I
cared about. He'll lay around these woods a long time
before I hunt him up."
Tom didn't feel no more intrust in him neither, only curiosity
to know what come of him; but he said we'd lay low and keep
dark and it wouldn't be long till the dogs or somebody rousted him out.
We went back home to breakfast ever so bothered and put
out and disappointed and swindled. I warn't ever so down
on a corpse before.