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CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE (continued)
Some of them kinds of loafers never has a cent in the world, nor a chaw of tobacco of their own. They get all their chawing by borrowing-they say to a fellow, “I wisht you’d len’ me a chaw, Jack, I jist this minute give Ben Thompson the last chaw I had”- which is a lie, pretty much every time; it don’t fool nobody but a stranger; but Jack ain’t no stranger, so he says“You give him a chaw, did you? so did your sister’s cat’s grandmother. You pay me back the chaws you’ve awready borry’d off’n me, Lafe Buckner, then I’ll loan you one or two ton of it, and won’t charge you no back intrust, nuther.” “Well, I did pay you back some of it wunst.” “Yes, you did-‘bout six chaws. You borry’d store tobacker and paid back nigger-head.” Store tobacco is flat black plug, but these fellows mostly chaws the natural leaf twisted. When they borrow a chaw, they don’t generly cut it off with a knife, but they set the plug in between their teeth, and gnaw with their teeth and tug at the plug with their hands till they get it in two-then sometimes the one that owns the tobacco looks mournful at it when it’s handed back, and says, sarcastic “Here, gimme the chaw, and you take the plug.” All the streets and lanes was just mud, they warn’t nothing else but mud-mud as black as tar, and nigh about a foot deep in some places; and two or three inches deep in all the places. The hogs loafed and grunted around, everywheres.
You’d see a muddy sow and a litter of pigs come lazying along the street and whollop herself right down in the way, where folks had to walk around her, and she’d stretch out, and shut her eyes, and wave her ears, whilst the pigs was milking her, and look as happy as if she was on salary. And pretty soon you’d hear a loafer sing out, “Hi! so boy! sick him, Tige!” and away the sow would go, squealing most horrible, with a dog or two swinging to each ear, and three or four dozen more a-coming; and then you would see all the loafers get up and watch the thing out of sight, and laugh at the fun and look grateful for the noise. Then they’d settle back again till there was a dog-fight. There couldn’t anything wake them up all over, and make them happy all over, like a dog-fight-unless it might be putting turpentine on a stray dog and setting fire to him, or tying a tin to his tail and see him run himself to death.
On the river front some of the houses was sticking out over the bank, and they was bowed and bent, and about ready to tumble in. The people had moved out of them. The bank was caved away under one corner of some others, and that corner was hanging over. People lived in them yet, but it was dangersome, because sometimes a strip of land as wide as a house caves in at a time. Sometimes a belt of land a quarter of a mile deep will start in and cave along and cave along till it all caves into the river in one summer. Such a town as that has to be always moving back, and back, and back, because the river’s always gnawing at it.
The nearer it got to noon that day, the thicker and thicker was the wagons and horses in the streets, and more coming all the time. Families fetched their dinners with them, from the country, and eat them in the wagons. There was considerable whiskey drinking going on, and I seen three fights. By-and-by somebody sings out“Here comes old Boggs!- in from the country for his little old monthly drunkhere he comes, boys!” All the loafers looked glad-I reckoned they was used to having fun out of Boggs. One of them says“Wonder who he’s a gwyne to chaw up this time. If he’d a chawed up all the men he’s ben a gwyne to chaw up in the last twenty year, he’d have considerable ruputation, now.” Another one says, “I wisht old Boggs’d threaten me, ‘cuz then I’d know I warn’t gwyne to die for a thousan’ year.” Boggs comes atearing along on his horse, whopping and yelling like an Injun, and singing out“Cler the track, thar. I’m on the waw-path, and the price uv coffins is a gwyne to raise.”
He was drunk, and weaving about in his saddle; he was over fifty year old, and had a very red face. Everybody yelled at him, and laughed at him, and sassed him, and he sassed back, and said he’d attend to them and lay them out in their regular turns, but he couldn’t wait now, because he’d come to town to kill old Colonel Sherburn, and his motto was, “meat first, and spoon vittles to top off on.” He see me, and rode up and says“Whar’d you come f’m, boy? You prepared to die?” Then he rode on. I was scared; but a man says-“He don’t mean nothing; he’s always a carryin’on like that, when he’s drunk. He’s the best-naturedest old fool in Arkansaw-never hurt nobody, drunk nor sober.” Boggs rode up before the biggest store in town and bent his head down so he could see under the curtain of the awning, and yells”Come out here, Sherburn! Come out and meet the man you’ve swindled.
You’re the houn’ I’m after, and I’m a gwyne to have you, too!” And so he went on, calling Sherburn everything he could lay his tongue to, and the whole street packed with people listening and laughing and going on. Byand-by a proudlooking man about fifty-five-and he was a heap the best dressed man in that town, too-steps out of the store, and the crowd drops back on each side to let him come. He says to Boggs, mighty ca’m and slow-he says: “I’m tired of this; but I’ll endure it till one o’clock. Till one o’clock, mind-no longer. If you open your mouth against me only once, after that time, you can’t travel so far but I will find you.” Then he turns and goes in. The crowd looked mighty sober; nobody stirred, and there warn’t no more laughing. Boggs rode off blackguarding Sherburn as loud as he could yell, all down the street; and pretty soon back he comes and stops before the store, still keeping it up. Some men crowded around him and tried to get him to shut up, but he wouldn’t; they told him it would be one o’clock in about fifteen minutes, and so he must go home-he must go right away. But it didn’t do no good. He cussed away, with all his might, and throwed his hat down in the mud and rode over it, and pretty soon away he went a-raging down the street again, with his gray hair a-flying. Everybody that could get a chance at him tried their best to coax him off of his horse so they could lock him up and get him sober; but it warn’t no use-up the street he would tear again, and give Sherburn another cussing. By-and-by somebody says“Go for his daughter!-quick, go for his daughter; sometimes he’ll listen to her. If anybody can persuade him, she can.” So somebody started on a run. I walked down street a ways, and stopped. In about five or ten minutes, here comes Boggs again-but not on his horse. He was a-reeling across the street towards me, bareheaded, with a friend on both sides of him aholt of his arms and hurrying him along. He was quiet, and looked uneasy; and he warn’t hanging back any, but was doing some of the hurrying himself.
Somebody sings out“Boggs!” I looked over to see who said it, and it was that Colonel Sherburn. He was standing perfectly still, in the street, and had a pistol raised in his right hand-not aiming it, but holding it out with the barrel tilted up towards the sky. The same second I see a young girl coming on the run, and two men with her. Boggs and the men turned round, to see who called him, and when they see the pistol the men jumped to one side, and the pistol barrel come down slow and steady to a level-both barrels cocked. Boggs throws up both of his hands, and says, “O Lord, don’t shoot!” Bang! goes the first shot, and he staggers back clawing at the airbang! goes the second one, and he tumbles backwards onto the ground, heavy and solid, with his arms spread out. That young girl screamed out, and comes rushing, and down she throws herself on her father, crying, and saying, “Oh, he’s killed him, he’s killed him!” The crowd closed up around them, and shouldered and jammed one another, with their necks stretched, trying to see, and people on the inside trying to shove them back, and shouting, “Back, back! give him air, give him air!” Colonel Sherburn he tossed his pistol onto the ground, and turned around on his heels and walked off. They took Boggs to a little drug store, the crowd pressing around, just the same, and the whole town following, and I rushed and got a good place at the window, where I was close to him and could see in. They laid him on the floor, and put one large Bible under his head, and opened another one and spread it on his breast-but they tore open his shirt first, and I seen where one of the bullets went in. He made about a dozen long gasps, his breast lifting the Bible up when he drawed in his breath, and letting it down again when he breathed it out-and after that he laid still; he was dead. Then they pulled his daughter away from him, screaming and crying, and took her off. She was about sixteen, and very sweet and gentle-looking, but awful pale and scared.
Well, pretty soon the whole town was there, squirming and scrouging and pushing and shoving to get at the window and have a look, but people that had the places wouldn’t give them up, and folks behind them was saying all the time, “Say, now, you’ve looked enough, you fellows; ‘taint right and ‘taint fair, for you to stay thar all the time, and never give nobody a chance; other folks has their rights as well as you.
There was considerable jawing back, so I slid out, thinking maybe there was going to be trouble. The streets was full, and everybody was excited. Everybody that seen the shooting was telling how it happened, and there was a big crowd packed around each one of these fellows, stretching their necks and listening. One long lanky man, with long hair and a big white fur stove-pipe hat on the back of his head, and a crooked-handled cane, marked out the places on the ground where Boggs stood, and where Sherburn stood, and the people following him around from one place to t’other and watching everything he done, and bobbing their heads to show they understood, and stopping a little and resting their hands on their thighs to watch him mark the places on the ground with his cane; and then he stood up straight and stiff where Sherburn had stood, frowning and having his hatbrim down over his eyes, and sung out, “Boggs!” and then fetched his cane down slow to a level, and says “Bang!” staggered backwards, says “Bang!” again, and fell down flat on his back. The people that had seen the thing said he done it perfect; said it was just exactly the way it all happened. Then as much as a dozen people got out their bottles and treated him. Well, by-and-by somebody said Sherburn ought to be lynched. In about a minute everybody was saying it; so away they went, mad and yelling, and snatching down every clothes-line they come to, to do the hanging with.