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The old man was up town again, before breakfast, but couldn’t get no track of Tom; and both of them set at the table, thinking, and not saying nothing, and looking mournful, and their coffee getting cold, and not eating anything. And by-andby the old man says: “Did I give you the letter?” “What letter?” “The one I got yesterday out of the post-office.” “No, you didn’t give me no letter.” “Well, I must a forgot it.” So he rummaged his pockets, and then went off somewheres where he had laid it down, and fetched it, and give it to her. She says: “Why, it’s from St. Petersburg-it’s from Sis.” I allowed another walk would do me good; but I couldn’t stir. But before she could break it open, she dropped it and run-for she see something. And so did I.
It was Tom Sawyer on a mattress; and that old doctor; and Jim, in her calico dress, with his hands tied behind him; and a lot of people. I hid the letter behind the first thing that come handy, and rushed. She flung herself at Tom, crying, and says: “Oh, he’s dead, he’s dead, I know he’s dead!” And Tom he turned his head a little, and muttered something or other, which showed he warn’t in his right mind; then she flung up her hands, and says: “He’s alive, thank God! And that’s enough!” and she snatched a kiss of him, and flew for the house to get the bed ready, and scattering orders right and left at the niggers and everybody else, as fast as her tongue could go, every jump of the way.
I followed the men to see what they was going to do with Jim; and the old doctor and Uncle Silas followed after Tom into the house. The men was very huffy, and some of them wanted to hang Jim, for an example to all the other niggers around there, so they wouldn’t be trying to run away, like Jim done, and making such a raft of trouble, and keeping a whole family scared most to death for days and nights. But the others said, don’t do it, it wouldn’t answer at all, he ain’t our nigger, and his owner would turn up and make us pay for him, sure. So that cooled them down a little, because the people that’s always the most anxious for to hang a nigger that hain’t done just right, is always the very ones that ain’t the most anxious to pay for him when they’ve got their satisfaction out of him.
They cussed Jim considerble, though, and give him a cuff or two, side the head, once in a while, but Jim never said nothing, and he never let on to know me, and they took him to the same cabin, and put his own clothes on him, and chained him again, and not to no bed-leg, this time, but to a big staple drove into the bottom log, and chained his hands, too, and both legs, and said he warn’t to have nothing but bread and water to eat, after this, till his owner come or he was sold at auction, because he didn’t come in a certain length of time, and filled up our hole, and said a couple of farmers with guns must stand watch around about the cabin every night, and a bull-dog tied to the door in the day-time; and about this time they was through with the job and was tapering off with a kind of generl good-bye cussing, and then the old doctor comes and takes a look, and says: “Don’t be no rougher on him than you’re obleeged to, because he ain’t a bad nigger. When I got to where I found the boy, I see I couldn’t cut the bullet out without some help, and he warn’t in no condition for me to leave, to go and get help; and he got a little worse and a little worse, and after a long time he went out of his head, and wouldn’t let me come anigh him, any more, and said if I chalked his raft he’d kill me, and no end of wild foolishness like that, and I see I couldn’t do anything at all with him; so I says, I got to have help, somehow; and the minute I says it, out crawls this nigger from somewheres, and says he’ll help, and he done it, too, and done it very well. Of course I judged he must be a runaway nigger, and there I was! and there I had to stick, right straight along all the rest of the day, and all night. It was a fix, I tell you! I had a couple of patients with the chills, and of course, I’d of liked to run up to town and see them, but I dasn’t, because the nigger might get away, and then I’d be to blame; and yet never a skiff come close enough for me to hail. So there I had to stick, plumb till daylight this morning; and I never see a nigger that was a better nuss or faithfuller, and yet he was resking his freedom to do it, and was all tired out, too, and I see plain enough he’d been worked main hard, lately. I liked the nigger for that; I tell you, gentlemen, a nigger like that is worth a thousand dollars-and kind treatment, too.
I had everything I needed, and the boy was doing as well there as he would a done at home-better, maybe, because it was so quiet; but there I was, with both of ‘m on my hands; and there I had to stick, till about dawn this morning; then some men in a skiff come by, and as good luck would have it, the nigger was setting by the pallet with his head propped on his knees, sound asleep; so I motioned them in, quiet, and they slipped up on him and grabbed him and tied him before he knowed what he was about, and we never had no trouble. And the boy being in a kind of a flighty sleep, too, we muffled the oars and hitched the raft on, and towed her over very nice and quiet, and the nigger never made the least row nor said a word, from the start. He ain’t no bad nigger, gentlemen; that’s what I think about him.” Somebody says: “Well, it sounds very good, doctor, I’m obleeged to say.” Then the others softened up a little, too, and I was mighty thankful to that old doctor for doing Jim that good turn; and I was glad it was according to my judgment of him, too; because I thought he had a good heart in him and was a good man, the first time I see him. Then they all agreed that Jim had acted very well, and was deserving to have some notice took of it, and reward. So every one of them promised, right out and hearty, that they wouldn’t cuss him no more.
Then they come out and locked him up. I hoped they was going to say he could have one or two of the chains took off, because they was rotten heavy, or could have meat and greens with his bread and water, but they didn’t think of it, and I reckoned it warn’t best for me to mix in, but I judged I’d get the doctor’s yarn to Aunt Sally, somehow or other, as soon as I’d got through the breakers that was laying just ahead of me. Explanations, I mean, of how I forgot to mention about Sid being shot, when I was telling how him and me put in that dratted night paddling around hunting the runaway nigger.
But I had plenty time. Aunt Sally she stuck to the sickroom all day and all night; and every time I see Uncle Silas mooning around, I dodged him.
Next morning I heard Tom was a good deal better, and they said Aunt Sally was gone to get a nap. So I slips to the sick-room, and if I found him awake I reckoned we could put up a yarn for the family that would wash. But he was sleeping, and sleeping very peaceful, too; and pale, not fire-faced the way he was when he come. So I set down and laid for him to wake. In about a half an hour, Aunt Sally comes gliding in, and there I was, up a stump again! She motioned me to be still, and set down by me, and begun to whisper, and said we could all be joyful now, because all the symptoms was first rate, and he’d been sleeping like that for ever so long, and looking better and peacefuller all the time, and ten to one he’d wake up in his right mind.
So we set there watching, and by-and-by he stirs a bit, and opened his eyes very natural, and takes a look, and says: “Hello, why I’m at home! How’s that? Where’s the raft?” “It’s all right,” I says.