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“I didn’t do it, friends,” he sobbed; “’pon my word and honor I never done it.”
“Who’s accused you?” shouted a voice.
This shot seemed to carry home. Potter lifted his face and looked around him
with a pathetic hopelessness in his eyes. He saw Injun Joe, and exclaimed: “O,
Injun Joe, you promised me you’d never-” “Is that your knife?” and it was thrust
before him by the Sheriff.
Potter would have fallen if they had not caught him and eased him to the
ground. Then he said: “Something told me ‘t if I didn’t come back and get-” He
shuddered; then waved his nerveless hand with a vanquished gesture and said,
“Tell ‘em, Joe, tell ‘em-it ain’t any use any more.” Then Huckleberry and Tom
stood dumb and staring, and heard the stonyhearted liar reel off his serene
statement, they expecting every moment that the clear sky would deliver God’s
lightnings upon his head, and wondering to see how long the stroke was
delayed. And when he had finished and still stood alive and whole, their
wavering impulse to break their oath and save the poor betrayed prisoner’s life
faded and vanished away, for plainly this miscreant had sold himself to Satan
and it would be fatal to meddle with the property of such a power as that.
“Why didn’t you leave? What did you want to come here for?” somebody said.
“I couldn’t help it-I couldn’t help it,” Potter moaned. “I wanted to run away, but
I couldn’t seem to come anywhere but here.” And he fell to sobbing again.
Injun Joe repeated his statement, just as calmly, a few minutes afterward on the
inquest, under oath; and the boys, seeing that the lightnings were still withheld,
were confirmed in their belief that Joe had sold himself to the devil. He was now
become, to them, the most balefully interesting object they had ever looked
upon, and they could not take their fascinated eyes from his face. They inwardly
resolved to watch him, nights, when opportunity should offer, in the hope of
getting a glimpse of his dread master.
Injun Joe helped to raise the body of the murdered man and put it in a wagon
for removal; and it was whispered through the shuddering crowd that the
wound bled a little! The boys thought that this happy circumstance would turn
suspicion in the right direction; but they were disappointed, for more than one
villager remarked: “It was within three feet of Muff Potter when it done it.”
Tom’s fearful secret and gnawing conscience disturbed his sleep for as much as a
week after this; and at breakfast one morning Sid said: “Tom, you pitch around
and talk in your sleep so much that you keep me awake about half the time.”
Tom blanched and dropped his eyes.
“It’s a bad sign,” said Aunt Polly, gravely. “What you got on your mind, Tom?”
“Nothing. Nothing ‘t I know of.” But the boy’s hand shook so that he spilled his
“And you do talk such stuff,” Sid said. “Last night you said ‘it’s blood, it’s
blood, that’s what it is!’ You said that over and over. And you said, ‘Don’t
torment me so-I’ll tell!’ Tell what? What is it you’ll tell?” Everything was
swimming before Tom. There is no telling what might have happened, now, but
luckily the concern passed out of Aunt Polly’s face and she came to Tom’s relief
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