Table of Contents | MonkeyNotes | Barron's Booknotes
CHAPTER FORTY-ONE (continued)
“Why, dog my cats, they must a ben a house-full o’ niggers in there every night for four weeks, to a done all that work, Sister Phelps. Look at that shirt every last inch of it kivered over with secret Africa writ’n done with blood! Must a ben a raft uv ‘m at it right along, all the time, amost. Why, I’d give two dollars to have it read to me; ‘n’ as for the niggers that wrote it, I ‘low I’d take ‘n’ lash ‘m t’ll-” “People to help him, Brother Marples! Well, I reckon you’d think so, if you’d a been in this house for a while back. Why, they’ve stole everything they could lay their hands on-and we a watching, all the time, mind you. They stole that shirt right off o’ the line! and as for that sheet they made the rag ladder out of ther’ ain’t no telling how many times they didn’t steal that; and flour, and candles, and candlesticks, and spoons, and the old warming-pan, and most a thousand things that I disremember, now, and my new calico dress; and me, and Silas, and my Sid and Tom on the constant watch day and night, as I was a telling you, and not a one of us could catch hide nor hair, nor sight nor sound of them; and here at the last minute, lo and behold you, they slides right in under our noses, and fools us, and not only fools us but the Injun Territory robbers too, and actuly gets away with that nigger, safe and sound, and that with sixteen men and twentytwo dogs right on their very heels at that very time! I tell you, it just bangs anything I ever heard of. Why, sperits couldn’t a done better, and been no smarter.
And I reckon they must a been sperits-because, you know our dogs, and ther’ ain’t no better; well, them dogs never even got on the track of ‘m once! You explain that to me, if you can! any of you!” “Well, it does beat-” “Laws alive, I never-” “So help me, I wouldn’t a be-” “House thieves as well as-” “Goodnessgracioussakes, I’d a ben afeard to live in sich a-”
“’Fraid to live!- why, I was that scared I dasn’t hardly go to bed, or get up, or lay down, or set down, Sister Ridgeway. Why, they’d steal the very-why, goodness sakes, you can guess what kind of a fluster I was in by the time midnight come, last night. I hope to gracious if I warn’t afraid they’d steal some o’ the family!
I was just to that pass, I didn’t have no reasoning faculties no more. It looks foolish enough, now, in the day-time; but I says to myself, there’s my two poor boys asleep, ‘way up stairs in that lonesome room, and I declare to goodness I was that uneasy ‘t I crep’ up there and locked ‘em in! I did. And anybody would.
Because, you know, when you get scared, that way, and it keeps running on, and getting worse and worse, all the time, and your wits get to addling, and you get to doing all sorts o’ wild things, and by-and-by you think to yourself, spos’n I was a boy, and was away up there, and the door ain’t locked, and you-” She stopped, looking kind of wondering, and then she turned her head around slow, and when her eye lit on me-I got up and took a walk.
Says I to myself, I can explain better how we come to not be in that room this morning, if I go out to one side and study over it a little. So I done it. But I dasn’t go fur, or she’d a sent for me. And when it was late in the day, the people all went, and then I come in and told her the noise and shooting waked up me and “Sid,” and the door was locked, and we wanted to see the fun, so we went down the lightning-rod, and both of us got hurt a little, and we didn’t never want to try that no more. And then I went on and told her all what I told Uncle Silas before; and then she said she’d forgive us, and maybe it was all right enough anyway, and about what a body might expect of boys, for all boys was a pretty harumscarum lot, as fur as she could see; and so, as long as no harm hadn’t come of it, she judged she better put in her time being grateful we was alive and well and she had us still, stead of fretting over what was past and done. So then she kissed me, and patted me on the head, and dropped into a kind of brown study; and pretty soon jumps up, and says: “Why, lawsamercy, it’s most night, and Sid not come yet! What has become of that boy?” I see my chance; so I skips up and says: “I’ll run right up to town and get him,” I says.
“No you won’t,” she says. “You’ll stay right wher’you are; one’s enough to be lost at a time. If he ain’t here to supper, your uncle’ll go.” Well, he warn’t there to supper; so right after supper uncle went.
He come back about ten, a little bit uneasy; hadn’t run across Tom’s track.
Aunt Sally was a good deal uneasy; but Uncle Silas he said there warn’t no occasion to be-boys will be boys, he said, and you’ll see this one turn up in the morning, all sound and right. So she had to be satisfied. But she said she’d set up for him a while, anyway, and keep a light burning, so he could see it.
And then when I went up to bed she come up with me and fetched her candle, and tucked me in, and mothered me so good I felt mean, and like I couldn’t look her in the face; and she set down on the bed and talked with me a long time, and said what a splendid boy Sid was, and didn’t seem to want to ever stop talking about him; and kept asking me every now and then, if I reckoned he could a got lost, or hurt, or maybe drownded, and might be laying at this minute, somewheres, suffering or dead, and she not by him to help him, and so the tears would drip down, silent, and I would tell her that Sid was all right, and would be home in the morning, sure; and she would squeeze my hand, or maybe kiss me, and tell me to say it again, and keep on saying it, because it done her good, and she was in so much trouble. And when she was going away, she looked down in my eyes, so steady and gentle, and says: “The door ain’t going to be locked, Tom; and there’s the window and the rod; but you’ll be good, won’t you? And you won’t go? For my sake.” Laws knows I wanted to go, bad enough, to see about Tom, and was all intending to go; but after that, I wouldn’t a went, not for kingdoms.
But she was on my mind, and Tom was on my mind; so I slept very restless.
And twice I went down the rod, away in the night, and slipped around front, and see her setting there by her candle in the window with her eyes towards the road and the tears in them; and I wished I could do something for her, but I couldn’t, only to swear that I wouldn’t never do nothing to grieve her any more. And the third time, I waked up at dawn, and slid down, and she was there yet, and her candle was most out, and her old gray head was resting on her hand, and she was asleep.