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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN (continued)
“Yes, he is. He ain’t ever told me you was here; told me to come, and he’d show me a lot of water-moccasins. If anything happens, he ain’t mixed up in it.
He can say he never seen us together, and it’ll be the truth.” I don’t want to talk much about the next day. I reckon I’ll cut it pretty short. I waked up about dawn, and was agoing to turn over and go to sleep again, when I noticed how still it was-didn’t seem to be anybody stirring. That warn’t usual.
Next I noticed that Buck was up and gone. Well, I gets up, a-wondering, and goes down stairs-nobody around; everything as still as a mouse. Just the same outside; thinks I, what does it mean? Down by the wood-pile I comes across my Jack, and says: “What’s it all about?” Says he: “Don’t you know, Mars Jawge?” “No,” says I, “I don’t.” “Well, den, Miss Sophia’s run off! ‘deed she has. She run off in de night, sometime-nobody don’t know jis’ when-run off to git married to dat young Harney Shepherdson, you know-leastways, so dey ‘spec. De fambly foun’ it out, ‘bout half an hour ago-maybe a little mo’- en’ I tell you dey warn’t no time los’.
Sich another hurryin’ up guns en hosses you never see! De women folks has gone for to stir up the relations, en ole Mars Saul en de boys tuck dey guns en rode up de river road for to try to ketch dat young man en kill him ‘fo’ he kin git acrost de river wid Miss Sophia. I reck’n dey’s gwyne to be mighty rough times.” “Buck went off ‘thout waking me up.” “Well I reck’n he did! Dey warn’t gwyne to mix you up in it. Mars Buck he loaded up his gun en ‘lowed he’s gwyne to fetch home a Shepherdson or bust. Well, dey’ll be plenty un ‘m dah, I reck’n, en you bet you he’ll fetch one ef he gits a chanst.” I took up the river road as hard as I could put. By-and-by I begin to hear guns a good ways off. When I come in sight of the log store and the wood-pile where the steamboats lands, I worked along under the trees and brush till I got to a good place, and then I clumb up into the forks of a cotton-wood that was out of reach, and watched. There was a wood-rank four foot high, a little ways in front of the tree, and first I was going to hide behind that; but maybe it was luckier I didn’t.
There was four or five men cavorting around on their horses in the open place before the log store, cussing and yelling, and trying to get at a couple of young chaps that was behind the wood-rank alongside of the steamboat landing-but they couldn’t come it. Every time one of them showed himself on the river side of the wood-pile he got shot at. The two boys was squatting back to back behind the pile, so they could watch both ways.
By-and-by the men stopped cavorting around and yelling. They started riding towards the store; then up gets one of the boys, draws a steady bead over the wood-rank, and drops one of them out of his saddle. All the men jumped off of their horses and grabbed the hurt one and started to carry him to the store; and that minute the two boys started on the run. They got half-way to the tree I was in before the men noticed. Then the men see them, and jumped on their horses and took out after them. They gained on the boys, but it didn’t do no good, the boys had too good a start; they got to the wood-pile that was in front of my tree, and slipped in behind it, and so they had the bulge on the men again. One of the boys was Buck, and the other was a slim young chap about nineteen years old.
The men ripped around awhile, and then rode away. As soon as they was out of sight, I sung out to Buck and told him. He didn’t know what to make of my voice coming out of the tree, at first. He was awful surprised. He told me to watch out sharp and let him know when the men come in sight again; said they was up to some devilment or other-wouldn’t be gone long. I wished I was out of that tree, but I dasn’t come down. Buck begun to cry and rip, and ‘lowed that him and his cousin Joe (that was the other young chap) would make up for this day, yet. He said his father and his two brothers was killed, and two or three of the enemy. Said the Shepherdsons laid for them, in ambush. Buck said his father and brothers ought to waited for their relations-the Shepherdsons was too strong for them. I asked him what was become of young Harney and Miss Sophia. He said they’d got across the river and was safe. I was glad of that; but the way Buck did take on because he didn’t manage to kill Harney that day he shot at him-I hain’t ever heard anything like it.
All of a sudden, bang! bang! bang! goes three or four guns-the men had slipped around through the woods and come in from behind without their horses! The boys jumped for the river-both of them hurt-and as they swum down the current the men run along the bank shooting at them and singing out, “Kill them, kill them!” It made me so sick I most fell out of the tree. I ain’t agoing to tell all that happened-it would make me sick again if I was to do that. I ain’t ever going to get shut of them-lots of times I dream about them.
I staid in the tree till it begun to get dark, afraid to come down. Sometimes I heard guns. away off in the woods; and twice I seen little gangs of men gallop past the log store with guns; so I reckoned the trouble was still agoing on. I was mighty down-hearted; so I made up my mind I wouldn’t ever go anear that house again, because I reckoned I was to blame, somehow. I judged that piece of paper meant that Miss Sophia was to meet Harney somewheres at halfpast two and run off; and I judged I ought to told her father about that paper and the curious way she acted, and then maybe he would a locked her up and this awful mess wouldn’t ever happened.
When I got down out of the tree, I crept along down the river bank a piece, and found the two bodies laying in the edge of the water, and tugged at them till I got them ashore; then I covered up their faces, and got away as quick as I could. I cried a little when I was covering up Buck’s face, for he was mighty good to me.
It was just dark, now. I never went near the house, but struck through the woods and made for the swamp. Jim warn’t on his island, so I tramped off in a hurry for the crick, and crowded through the willows, red-hot to jump aboard and get out of that awful country-the raft was gone! My souls, but I was scared! I couldn’t get my breath for most a minute. Then I raised a yell. A voice not twenty-five foot from me, says“Good lan’! is dat you, honey? Doan’ make no noise.” It was Jim’s voice-nothing ever sounded so good before. I run along the bank a piece and got aboard, and Jim he grabbed me and hugged me, he was so glad to see me. He says“Laws bless you, chile, I ‘uz right down sho’ you’s dead agin. Jack’s been heah, he say he reck’n you’s ben shot, kase you didn’ come home no mo’; so I’s jes’ dis minute a startin’ de raf’ down towards de mouf er de crick, so’s to be all ready for to shove out en leave soon as Jack comes agin en tells me for certain you is dead. Lawsy, I’s mighty glad to git you back agin, honey.” I says“All right-that’s mighty good; they won’t find me, and they’ll think I’ve been killed, and floated down the river-there’s something up there that’ll help them to think so-so don’t you lose no time, Jim, but just shove off for the big water as fast as ever you can.” I never felt easy till the raft was two mile below there and out in the middle of the Mississippi. Then we hung up our signal lantern, and judged that we was free and safe once more. I hadn’t had a bite to eat since yesterday; so Jim he got out some corn-dodgers and buttermilk, and pork and cabbage, and greens-there ain’t nothing in the world so good, when it’s cooked right-and whilst I eat my supper we talked, and had a good time. I was powerful glad to get away from the feuds, and so was Jim to get away from the swamp. We said there warn’t no home like a raft, after all. Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.