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Col. Grangerford was a gentleman, you see. He was a gentleman all over; and so was his family. He was well born, as the saying is, and that’s worth as much in a man as it is in a horse, so the Widow Douglas said, and nobody ever denied that she was of the first aristocracy in our town; and pap he always said it, too, though he warn’t no more quality than a mudcat, himself. Col. Grangerford was very tall and very slim, and had a darkish-paly complexion, not a sign of red in it anywheres; he was clean-shaved every morning, all over his thin face, and he had the thinnest kind of lips, and the thinnest kind of nostrils, and a high nose, and heavy eyebrows, and the blackest kind of eyes, sunk so deep back that they seemed like they was looking out of caverns at you, as you may say. His forehead was high, and his hair was black and straight, and hung to his shoulders. His hands was long and thin, and every day of his life he put on a clean shirt and a full suit from head to foot made out of linen so white it hurt your eyes to look at it; and on Sundays he wore a blue tail-coat with brass buttons on it. He carried a mahogany cane with a silver head to it. There warn’t no frivolishness about him, not a bit, and he warn’t ever loud. He was as kind as he could be-you could feel that, you know, and so you had confidence. Sometimes he smiled, and it was good to see; but when he straightened himself up like a liberty-pole, and the lightning begun to flicker out from under his eyebrows you wanted to climb a tree first, and find out what the matter was afterwards. He didn’t ever have to tell anybody to mind their manners-everybody was always good mannered where he was. Everybody loved to have him around, too; he was sunshine most always-I mean he made it seem like good weather. When he turned into a cloud-bank it was awful dark for a half a minute and that was enough; there wouldn’t nothing go wrong again for a week.
When him and the old lady come down in the morning, all the family got up out of their chairs and give them good-day, and didn’t set down again till they had set down. Then Tom and Bob went to the sideboard where the decanters was, and mixed a glass of bitters and handed it to him, and he held it in his hand and waited till Tom’s and Bob’s was mixed, and then they bowed and said “Our duty to you, sir, and madam;” and they bowed the least bit in the world and said thank you, and so they drank, all three, and Bob and Tom poured a spoonful of water on the sugar and the mite of whisky or apple brandy in the bottom of their tumblers, and give it to me and Buck, and we drank to the old people too.
Bob was the oldest, and Tom next. Tall, beautiful men with very broad shoulders and brown faces, and long black hair and black eyes. They dressed in white linen from head to foot, like the old gentleman, and wore broad Panama hats.
Then there was Miss Charlotte, she was twenty-five, and tall and proud and grand, but as good as she could be, when she warn’t stirred up; but when she was, she had a look that would make you wilt in your tracks, like her father. She was beautiful.
So was her sister, Miss Sophia, but it was a different kind. She was gentle and sweet, like a dove, and she was only twenty.
Each person had their own nigger to wait on them-Buck, too. My nigger had a monstrous easy time, because I warn’t used to having anybody do anything for me, but Buck’s was on the jump most of the time. This was all there was of the family, now; but there used to be more-three sons, they got killed; and Emmeline that died.
The old gentleman owned a lot of farms, and over a hundred niggers. Sometimes a stack of people would come there, horseback, from ten or fifteen mile around, and stay five or six days, and have such junketings round about and on the river, and dances and picnics in the woods, day-times, and balls at the house, nights. These people was mostly kinfolks of the family. The men brought their guns with them. It was a handsome lot of quality, I tell you.
There was another clan of aristocracy around there-five or six familiesmostly of the name of Shepherdson. They was as high-toned, and well born, and rich and grand, as the tribe of Grangerfords. The Shepherdsons and the Grangerfords used the same steamboat landing, which was about two mile above our house; so sometimes when I went up there with a lot of our folks I used to see a lot of the Shepherdsons there, on their fine horses.
One day Buck and me was away out in the woods, hunting, and heard a horse coming. We was crossing the road. Buck says: “Quick! Jump for the woods!”
We done it, and then peeped down the woods through the leaves. Pretty soon a splendid young man came galloping down the road, setting his horse easy and looking like a soldier. He had his gun across his pommel. I had seen him before.
It was young Harney Shepherdson. I heard Buck’s gun go off at my ear, and Harney’s hat tumbled off from his head. He grabbed his gun and rode straight to the place where we was hid. But we didn’t wait. We started through the woods on a run. The woods warn’t thick, so I looked over my shoulder, to dodge the bullet, and twice I seen Harney cover Buck with his gun; and then he rode away the way he come-to get his hat, I reckon, but I couldn’t see. We never stopped running till we got home. The old gentleman’s eyes blazed a minute-‘twas pleasure, mainly, I judged-then his face sort of smoothed down and he says, kind of gentle: “I don’t like that shooting from behind a bush. Why didn’t you step into the road, my boy?” “The Shepherdsons don’t, father. They always take advantage.” Miss Charlotte she held her head up like a queen while Buck was telling his tale and her nostrils spread and her eyes snapped. The two young men looked dark, but never said nothing. Miss Sophia she turned pale, but the color came back when she found the man warn’t hurt.
Soon as I could get Buck down by the corn-cribs under the trees by ourselves, I says: “Did you want to kill him, Buck?”
“Well, I bet I did.” “What did he do to you?” “Him? He never done nothing to me.” “Well, then, what did you want to kill him for?” “Why, nothing-only it’s on account of the feud.” “What’s a feud?” “Why, where was you raised? Don’t you know what a feud is?” “Never heard of it before-tell me about it.” “Well,” says Buck, “a feud is this way. A man has a quarrel with another man, and kills him; then that other man’s brother kills him; then the other brothers, on both sides, goes for one another; then the cousins chip in-and by-and-by everybody’s killed off, and there ain’t no more feud. But it’s kind of slow, and takes a long time.” “Has this one been going on long, Buck?” “Well I should reckon! it started thirty year ago, or som’ers along there.
There was trouble ‘bout something and then a lawsuit to settle it; and the suit went agin one of the men, and so he up and shot the man that won the suit-which he would naturally do, of course. Anybody would.” “What was the trouble about, Buck?- land?” “I reckon maybe-I don’t know.”
“Well, who done the shooting?- was it a Grangerford or a Shepherdson?” “Laws, how do I know? it was so long ago.” “Don’t anybody know?” “Oh, yes, pa knows, I reckon, and some of the other old folks; but they don’t know, now, what the row was about in the first place.” “Has there been many killed, Buck?” “Yes-right smart chance of funerals. But they don’t always kill. Pa’s got a few buck-shot in him; but he don’t mind it ‘cuz he don’t weigh much anyway.