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The doctor was an old man; a very nice, kind-looking old man, when I got him up. I told him me and my brother was over on Spanish Island hunting, yesterday afternoon, and camped on a piece of a raft we found, and about midnight he must a kicked his gun in his dreams, for it went off and shot him in the leg, and we wanted him to go over there and fix it and not say nothing about it, nor let anybody know, because we wanted to come home this evening, and surprise the folks.
“Who is your folks?” he says.
“The Phelpses, down yonder.” “Oh,” he says. And after a minute, he says: “How’d you say he got shot?” “He had a dream,” I says, “and it shot him.” “Singular dream,” he says.
So he lit up his lantern, and got his saddle-bags, and we started. But when he see the canoe, he didn’t like the look of her-said she was big enough for one, but didn’t look pretty safe for two. I says: “Oh, you needn’t be afeard, sir, she carried the three of us, easy enough.” “What three?” “Why me and Sid, and-andthe guns; that’s what I mean.”
“Oh,” he says.
But he put his foot on the gunnel, and rocked her; and shook his head, and said he reckoned he’d look around for a bigger one. But they was all locked and chained; so he took my canoe, and said for me to wait till he come back, or I could hunt around further, or maybe I better go down home and get them ready for the surprise, if I wanted to. But I said I didn’t; so I told him just how to find the raft, and then he started.
I struck an idea, pretty soon. I says to myself, spos’n he can’t fix that leg just in three shakes of a sheep’s tail, as the saying is? spos’n it takes him three or four days? What are we going to do?lay around there till he lets the cat out of the bag? No, sir, I know what I’ll do. I’ll wait, and when he comes back, if he says he’s got to go any more, I’ll get down there, too, if I swim; and we’ll take and tie him, and keep him, and shove out down the river; and when Tom’s done with him, we’ll give him what it’s worth, or all we got, and then let him get shore.
So then I crept into a lumber pile to get some sleep; and next time I waked up the sun was away up over my head! I shot out and went for the doctor’s house, but they told me he’d gone away in the night, some time or other, and warn’t back yet. Well, thinks I, that looks powerful bad for Tom, and I’ll dig out for the island, right off. So away I shoved, and turned the corner, and nearly rammed my head into Uncle Silas’s stomach! He says: “Why, Tom! Where you been, all this time, you rascal?”
“I hain’t been nowheres,” I says, “only just hunting for the runaway niggerme and Sid.” “Why, where ever did you go?” he says. “Your aunt’s been mighty uneasy.” “She needn’t,” I says, “because we was all right. We followed the men and the dogs, but they out-run us, and we lost them; but we thought we heard them on the water, so we got a canoe and took out after them, and crossed over but couldn’t find nothing of them; so we cruised along up-shore till we got kind of tired and beat out; and tied up the canoe and went to sleep, and never waked up till about an hour ago, then we paddled over here to hear the news, and Sid’s at the post-office to see what he can hear, and I’m a branching out to get something to eat for us, and then we’re going home.” So then we went to the post-office to get “Sid”; but just as I suspicioned, he warn’t there; so the old man he got a letter out of the office, and we waited a while longer but Sid didn’t come; so the old man said come along, let Sid foot it home, or canoe-it, when he got done fooling around-but we would ride. I couldn’t get him to let me stay and wait for Sid; and he said there warn’t no use in it, and I must come along, and let Aunt Sally see we was all right.
When we got home, Aunt Sally was that glad to see me she laughed and cried both, and hugged me, and give me one of them lickings of hern that don’t amount to shucks, and said she’d serve Sid the same when he come.
And the place was plumb full of farmers and farmers’ wives, to dinner; and such another clack a body never heard. Old Mrs. Hotchkiss was the worst; her tongue was agoing all the time. She says: “Well, Sister Phelps, I’ve ransacked that-air cabin over an’ I b’lieve the nigger was crazy. I says so to Sister Damrelldidn’t I, Sister Damrell-s’I, he’s crazy, s’I-them’s the very words I said. You all hearn me: he’s crazy, s’I; everything shows it, s’I. Look at that-air grindstone, s’I; want to tell me’t any cretur ‘ts in his right mind’s agoin’ to scrabble all them crazy things onto a grindstone, s’I? Here sich’n sich a person busted his heart; ‘n’ here so ‘n’ so pegged along for thirtyseven year, ‘n’ all that-natcherl son o’ Louis somebody, ‘n’ sich everlast’n rubbage. He’s plumb crazy, s’I; it’s what I says in the fust place, it’s what I says in the middle, ‘n’ it’s what I says last ‘n’ all the time-the nigger’s crazy-crazy’s Nebokoodneezer, s’I.” “An’ look at that-air ladder made out’n rags, Sister Hotchkiss,” says old Mrs. Damrell, “what in the name o’ goodness could he ever want of-” “The very words I was a-sayin’ no longer ago th’n this minute to Sister Utterback, ‘n’ she’ll tell you so herself. Sh-she, look at that-air rag ladder, sh-she; ‘n’ s’I, yes, look at it, s’I-what could he a wanted of it, s’I. Sh-she, Sister Hotchkiss, sh-she-” “But how in the nation’d they ever git that grindstone in there, anyway? ‘n’ who dug that-air hole? ‘n’ who-”
“My very words, Brer Penrod! I was a-sayin’- pass that air sasser o’ m’lasses, won’t ye?- I was asayin’ to Sister Dunlap, jist this minute, how did they git that grindstone in there, s’I. Without help, mind you-‘thout help! Thar’s wher’ ‘tis.
Don’t tell me, s’I; there wuz help, s’I; ‘n’ ther’ wuz a plenty help, too, s’I; ther’s ben a dozen ahelpin’ that nigger, ‘n’ I lay I’d skin every last nigger on this place, but I’d find out who done it, s’I; ‘n’ moreover, s’I-” “A dozen says you!- forty couldn’t a done everything that’s been done. Look at them case-knife saws and things, how tedious they’ve been made; look at that bed-leg sawed off with ‘m, a week’s work for six men; look at that nigger made out’n straw on the bed; and look at-”
“You may well say it, Brer Hightower! It’s jist as I was a-sayin’ to Brer Phelps, his own self. S’e, what do you think of it, Sister Hotchkiss, s’e? think o’ what, Brer Phelps, s’I? think o’ that bedleg sawed off that a way, s’e? think of it, s’I? I lay it never sawed itself off, s’I-somebody sawed it, s’I; that’s my opinion, take it or leave it, it mayn’t be no’count, s’I, but sich as ‘t is, it’s my opinion, s’I, ‘n’ if anybody k’n start a better one, s’I, let him do it, s’I, that’s all. I says to Sister Dunlap, s’I-”