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It was after sun-up, now, but we went right on, and didn’t tie up. The king and the duke turned out, by-andby, looking pretty rusty; but after they’d jumped overboard and took a swim, it chippered them up a good deal. After breakfast the king he took a seat on a corner of the raft, and pulled off his boots and rolled up his britches, and let his legs dangle in the water, so as to be comfortable, and lit his pipe, and went to getting his Romeo and Juliet by heart. When he had got it pretty good, him and the duke begun to practice it together. The duke had to learn him over and over again, how to say every speech; and he made him sigh, and put his hand on his heart, and after while he said he done it pretty well; “only,” he says, “you mustn’t bellow out Romeo! that way, like a bull-you must say it soft, and sick, and languishy, so-R-o-o-meo! that is the idea; for Juliet’s a dear sweet mere child of a girl, you know, and she don’t bray like a jackass.” Well, next they got out a couple of long swords that the duke made out of oak laths, and begun to practice the swordfight-the duke called himself Richard III.; and the way they laid on, and pranced around the raft was grand to see. But byand-by the king tripped and fell overboard, and after that they took a rest, and had a talk about all kinds of adventures they’d had in other times along the river.
After dinner, the duke says: “Well, Capet, we’ll want to make this a first-class show, you know, so I guess we’ll add a little more to it. We want a little something to answer encores with, anyway.” “What’s onkores, Bilgewater?” The duke told him, and then says: “I’ll answer by doing the Highland fling or the sailor’s hornpipe; and youwell, let me see-oh, I’ve got it-you can do Hamlet’s soliloquy.” “Hamlet’s which?” “Hamlet’s soliloquy, you know; the most celebrated thing in Shakespeare.
Ah, it’s sublime, sublime! Always fetches the house. I haven’t got it in the bookI’ve only got one volume-but I reckon I can piece it out from memory. I’ll just walk up and down a minute, and see if I can call it back from recollection’s vaults.” So he went to marching up and down, thinking, and frowning horrible every now and then; then he would hoist up his eyebrows; next he would squeeze his hand on his forehead and stagger back and kind of moan; next he would sigh, and next he’d let on to drop a tear. It was beautiful to see him. By-and-by he got it.
He told us to give attention. Then he strikes a most noble attitude, with one leg shoved forwards, and his arms stretched away up, and his head tilted back, looking up at the sky; and then he begins to rip and rave and grit his teeth; and after that, all through his speech he howled, and spread around, and swelled up his chest, and just knocked the spots out of any acting ever I see before. This is the speech-I learned it, easy enough, while he was learning it to the king: To be, or not to be; that is the bare bodkin That makes calamity of so long life; For who would fardels bear, till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane, But that the fear of something after death Murders the innocent sleep, Great nature’s second course, And makes us rather sling the arrows of outrageous fortune Than fly to others that we know not of.
There’s the respect must give us pause: Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, The law’s delay, and the quietus which his pangs might take, In the dead waste and middle of the night, when churchyards yawn In customary suits of solemn black, But that the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns, Breathes forth contagion on the world, And thus the native hue of resolution, like the poor cat i’ the adage, Is sicklied o’er with care, And all the clouds that lowered o’er our housetops, With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action.
‘Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. But soft you, the fair Ophelia: Ope not thy ponderous and marble jaws, But get thee to a nunnery-go! Well, the old man he liked that speech, and he mighty soon got it so he could do it first rate. It seemed like he was just born for it; and when he had his hand in and was excited, it was perfectly lovely the way he would rip and tear and rair up behind when he was getting it off. The first chance we got, the duke he had some show bills printed; and after that, for two or three days as we floated along, the raft was a most uncommon lively place, for there warn’t nothing but sword-fighting and rehearsing-as the duke called it-going on all the time. One morning, when we was pretty well down the State of Arkansaw, we come in sight of a little one-horse town in a big bend; so we tied up about three-quarters of a mile above it, in the mouth of a crick which was shut in like a tunnel by the cypress trees, and all of us but Jim took the canoe and went down there to see if there was any chance in that place for our show.
We struck it mighty lucky; there was going to be a circus there that afternoon, and the country people was already beginning to come in, in all kinds of old shackly wagons, and on horses. The circus would leave before night, so our show would have a pretty good chance. The duke he hired the court house, and we went around and stuck up our bills. They read like this:
Wonderful Attraction! For One Night Only!
Assisted by the whole strength of the company!
--Then we went loafing around the town. The stores and houses was most all old shackly dried-up frame concerns that hadn’t ever been painted; they was set up three or four foot above ground on stilts, so as to be out of reach of the water when the river was overflowed. The houses had little gardens around them, but they didn’t seem to raise hardly anything in them but jimpson weeds, and sunflowers, and ash-piles, and old curled-up boots and shoes, and pieces of bottles, and rags, and played-out tin-ware. The fences was made of different kinds of boards, nailed on at different times; and they leaned every which-way, and had gates that didn’t generly have but one hinge-a leather one. Some of the fences had been whitewashed, some time or another, but the duke said it was in Clumbus’s time, like enough. There was generly hogs in the garden, and people driving them out.
All the stores was along one street. They had white-domestic awnings in front, and the country people hitched their horses to the awning-posts. There was empty dry-goods boxes under the awnings, and loafers roosting on them all day long, whittling them with their Barlow knives; and chawing tobacco, and gaping and yawning and stretching-a mighty ornery lot. They generly had on yellow straw hats most as wide as an umbrella, but didn’t wear no coats nor waistcoats; they called one another Bill, and Buck, and Hank, and Joe, and Andy, and talked lazy and drawly, and used considerable many cuss-words. There was as many as one loafer leaning up against every awning-post, and he most always had his hands in his britches pockets, except when he fetched them out to lend a chaw of tobacco or scratch. What a body was hearing amongst them, all the time was“Gimme a chaw’v tobacker, Hank.” “Cain’t-I hain’t got but one chaw left. Ask Bill.” Maybe Bill he gives him a chaw; maybe he lies and says he ain’t got none.