about half a minute somebody spoke out of a window, without putting his head out, and says:
“Be done, boys! Who’s there?”
“George Jackson, sir.”
“What do you want?”
“George Jackson, sir. I’m only a boy.”
“Look here; if you’re telling the truth, you needn’t be afraid—[nobody’ll] hurt you. But don’t try to budge; stand right where you are. [Rouse] out Bob and Tom, [some of you,] and fetch the guns. George Jackson, is there anybody with you?”
“No, sir—I never heard of them.”
“Well, that may be so, and it mayn’t. [Now,] all ready. Step forward, George Jackson. And mind, don’t you hurry—come mighty slow. If there’s anybody with you, let him keep [back—]if he shows himself he’ll be shot. Come along, now. Come slow; push the door [open,] yourself—just enough to squeeze in, [d’you] hear?”
I didn’t [hurry. I] [couldn’t,] if [I’d a] wanted to. I took one slow step at a time, and there warn’t a sound, only I thought I could hear my heart. The dogs [were] as still as the humans, but they followed a little behind me. When I got to the three log [door-steps] I heard them unlocking and unbarring and unbolting. I put my hand on the door and pushed it a little and a little more, till somebody said, “There, that’s enough—put your head in.” I done it, but I judged they would take it off.
The candle was on the floor, and there they all was, looking at [me and] me at them, for about a quarter of a minute. Three big [men,] with guns pointed at me, which made me [wince] I tell [you;] the [oldest] gray and about sixty, the other two thirty or more—all of them fine and handsome—and the sweetest old [gray-headed] lady, and back of her two young [women] which I couldn’t see right well. The old gentleman says:
“There—I reckon it’s all right. Come in.”
As soon as I was in, the old gentleman [he] locked the door and barred it and bolted it, and told the young men to come [in] with their guns, and they all went in a big [parlor] that had a new rag carpet on the [floor] and got together in a corner that was out of range of the front windows—there warn’t [none] on the side. They held the [candle] and took a good look at [me] and all said, “[Why, he ][ain’t] a Shepherdson—no, there [ain’t] any Shepherdson about him.” Then the [old] man said he hoped I wouldn’t mind being searched for [arms] because he didn’t mean no harm by it—it was only to make sure. So he didn’t pry into my pockets, but only felt outside with his [hands] and said it was all right. He told me to make myself easy and at home, and tell all about [myself,] but the old lady says:
“True for you, Rachel—I forgot.”
[page 134] So the old lady says:
“[[Betsy,]”] (this was a nigger [woman,)] [“you] fly around and get him something to eat, as quick as you can, poor [thing,] and one of you girls go and wake up Buck and tell [him—O], here he is [himself. Buck], take this little stranger and get the wet clothes off [from him] and dress him up in some of yours that’s dry.”
Buck looked [about as old as me—thirteen [or fourteen] or along there], though he was [a little] bigger than me. He hadn’t on anything but a shirt, and he was very frowsy-headed. He come in [gaping] [and] digging one fist into his eyes, and he was dragging a gun along with the other [one. He] says:
They said, no, ’twas a false alarm.
They all laughed, and Bob says:
When] we got [up stairs] to his [room,] he got me a coarse shirt and [a [roundabout]] and pants of his, and I put them on. While I was at it he asked me what my name was, but before I [could] tell [him] he started [page 135] to telling me about a blue jay and a young rabbit he had [catched] in the woods day before yesterday, and [he asked me where Moses was when the candle went out]. I said I didn’t know; I hadn’t heard about it before, [no way].
“Well, guess,” he says.
“But you can guess, can’t you? It’s just as easy.”
“Which candle?” I says.
“Why, blame it, it’s a riddle, don’t you [see? Say—]how long [are] you going to stay here? You got to stay always. We can just have booming times—they don’t have no school now. Do you own a dog? I’ve got a dog—and he’ll go in the river and bring out chips that you throw in. Do you like to comb [up,] Sundays, and all that kind of foolishness? You bet I don’t, but ma [she] makes me. [Confound] these [ole] [britches,] I reckon I’d better put ’em on, but [I’d ruther] not, it’s so warm. [Are] you all ready? All right—come along, old hoss.”
Cold [corn-pone], cold [corn beef], butter and [buttermilk]—that is what they had for me down there, and there [ain’t] [nothing] better that ever I’ve come across yet. Buck and his ma and all of them smoked cob pipes, except the nigger woman, which was gone, and the two young women. They all smoked and talked, and I eat and talked. The young women had quilts around [them] and their hair down their backs. They [all] asked me questions, and I told them how pap and me and all the family was living on a little farm down at the bottom of Arkansaw, and my sister Mary Ann run off and got married and never was heard of [no] more, and Bill went to hunt them and he warn’t heard of no more, [and Tom and Mort died, [and by and by mam died,]] and then there warn’t nobody but just me and pap [left,] and he was just trimmed down to [nothing,] on account of his troubles; so when he died I took what there was left, because the farm didn’t belong to us, and started up the [river] deck [passage] and fell [overboard] and that was how I come to be here. So they said I could have a home there as long as I wanted it. Then it was most daylight, and [everybody] went to bed, and I went to bed with Buck, [page 136] and when I waked [up,] [in the morning,] drat it [all] I had forgot what my name was. So I laid there about an hour trying to think, and when Buck waked up, I says:
“Can you spell, Buck?”
“Yes,” he says.
“I bet you what you dare I can,” says he.
It was a mighty nice family, and a mighty nice house, too. I [hadn’t seen no house out in the country before that was so nice and had so much style]. It didn’t have an iron latch [on] the front door, nor a wooden one with a [buckskin] string, but a brass knob to turn, the same as houses in a town. There warn’t no bed in the parlor, not a sign of a bed; but heaps of [parlors] in towns has beds in them. There was a big [fire place] that was bricked on the bottom, and the bricks was kept clean and red by [pouring] water on them and scrubbing them with another brick; sometimes they washed them over with red water-paint that they [call] [Spanish brown], same as they do in town. They had big brass dog-irons that could hold up a saw-log. [There was a clock on the middle of the [mantel piece] with a picture of a town painted on the bottom half of the glass front, and a round place in the middle of it for the sun, and you could see the pendulum swing behind it. It was beautiful to hear that clock tick; and sometimes when one of these [pedlers] had been along and scoured her up and got her in good [shape] she would [start in] and strike a hundred and fifty before she [got tuckered out]]. They wouldn’t took any money for her.
Well, there was a big outlandish parrot on each side of the clock, made out of something like [chalk,] and painted up gaudy. By one of the parrots was a cat made [of crockery] and a crockery dog by the [other;] and when you pressed down on them they [squeaked] but didn’t open their mouths nor look different [nor interested]. They [page 137] squeaked through [underneath]. There was a couple of big [wild-turkey-wing] fans spread out behind [those] things. On a table in the middle of the room was a [kind] of a lovely crockery basket that had apples and oranges and peaches and grapes piled up in it which was much [redder] and yellower and [prettier than [real ones is], but they warn’t [real,] because you could see where pieces had got chipped off and showed the white chalk or whatever it [was,] underneath].
This table had a cover made [out] of beautiful [oil cloth], with a red and blue [spread-eagle] painted on it, and a painted border all around. It come all the way from Philadelphia, they said. There was some [books,] too, piled up perfectly exact, on each corner of the table. One was a big family Bible, full of pictures. One was [[“Pilgrim’s Progress,”] about a man that left his [family,] it didn’t say why]. I read considerable in [it,] now and then. [The statements was interesting, but tough.] [Another] was [[“Friendship’s Offering,”] full of beautiful stuff and poetry; but I didn’t read the poetry]. Another was [Henry Clay’s Speeches], and another was [Dr. Gunn’s Family Medicine, which told you all about what to do if a body was sick [or dead]]. There was a [hymn book], and a lot of other books. [And there] was nice split-bottom chairs, and perfectly sound, too—not bagged down in the middle and [busted], like an old basket.
They had pictures hung on the walls—mainly [[Washingtons,] and Lafayettes, and battles, and [Highland Marys], and one called “Signing the Declaration.”] There was [some that they called crayons, which one of the daughters which was dead made her own self when she was only fifteen years old. They was different from any pictures I ever see [before;] [blacker, mostly], than is common]. One was [a woman in a slim black dress, belted small under the [arm-pits], with bulges like a cabbage in the middle of the sleeves, and a large black scoop-shovel bonnet with a black veil, and white slim [ancles] crossed about with black tape, and very wee black slippers, [like a chisel,] and she was leaning pensive on a tombstone on her right elbow, under a weeping willow, and her other hand hanging down her side holding a white [handkerchief] and a [[reticule,] and] underneath the picture it said “Shall I [Never See Thee More Alas].”] Another one was a young lady with her hair all combed up straight to the top of her [head] and knotted there in front of a comb like a chair-back, and she was crying into a [handkerchief] and had a [dead [page 138] bird [laying] on its back in her other hand with its heels up, and underneath the picture it said “I [Shall Never Hear Thy Sweet Chirrup More Alas].” There was one where a young lady was at a [window,] looking up at the moon, and tears running down her cheeks]; and she had an open letter in one [hand] with [black] sealing-wax showing on one edge of it, and she was [mashing] a locket with a chain to it against her [mouth,] and underneath the picture it said “And [Art Thou Gone Yes Thou Art Gone Alas].” These was all nice pictures, I reckon, but I didn’t somehow seem to take to them, because if ever I was down a little, they always give me the [fan-tods. Everybody] was sorry she died, [because] she had laid out a lot more of these pictures to do, and a body could see by what she had done what they had lost. But I [reckoned, that] with her disposition, she was having a better time in the [graveyard]. She was at work on what they said was her greatest picture when she took sick, and every day and every night it was her prayer to be allowed to live till she got it done, but she never got the chance. It was a picture of a [young woman in a long white gown, standing on the rail of a bridge [all] ready to jump off], with her hair all down her back, and looking up [to] the moon, with the tears running down her face, and she had two arms folded across her breast, and two arms stretched out in front, and two more reaching up towards the moon—and the idea [was,] to see which pair would look best and then scratch out all the other arms; [but] as I was saying, she died before she got her mind made [page 139] up, and now they kept this picture over the head of the bed in her room, and every time her birthday come they hung flowers on it. Other times it was hid with a little curtain. The young woman in the picture had a kind [of a] nice sweet face, but there was so many arms it made her look too [spidery, seemed to me].
This young girl kept a scrap-book when she was alive, and used to paste obituaries [and [accidents,] and cases of patient suffering] in it out of [the [Presbyterian Observer]] and write poetry after them out of her own head. It was very good poetry. [This is what she wrote about a boy by the name of Stephen Dowling Bots that fell down a well and was drownded:
And did young Stephen sicken,
And did young Stephen die?
And did the sad hearts thicken,
And did the mourners cry?
No; such was not the fate of
Young Stephen Dowling Bots;
No whooping-cough did rack his frame,
Not these impaired the sacred name
Of Stephen Dowling Bots.
Young Stephen Dowling Bots.
Whilst I his fate do tell.
His soul did from this cold world fly,
They got him out and emptied him;
Alas it was too late;
His spirit was gone for to sport aloft
[page 140] If [Emmeline Grangerford] could make poetry like that before she was fourteen, there [ain’t] [no] telling what she could [a] done [by and by]. Buck said she could rattle off poetry like nothing. She didn’t ever have [to stop] to think. He said she would slap down a line, and if she couldn’t find anything to rhyme with it she would just scratch it out and slap down another one, and go ahead. She warn’t [particular,] she could write about anything you choose to give her to write about, just so it was [sadful]. Every time a man died, or a woman died, or a child died, she would be on hand with her “[Tribute]” before he was cold. She called them [Tributes]. The neighbors said it was the doctor first, then Emmeline, then the [undertaker—the undertaker] never got in ahead of Emmeline but once, and then she hung fire on a rhyme for the [dead person’s name, which was Whistler. She warn’t ever the [same,] after that; she never complained, but she kind of pined away and did not live long. Poor [thing,] many’s the time I made [page 141] myself go up to the little room that used to be [hers] and get out her poor old [scrap book] and read in it when her pictures had been aggravating me and I had soured on [her] a little. I liked all] that family, dead ones and all, and [warn’t] going to let anything come between us. Poor Emmeline made poetry about all the dead people when she was alive, and it didn’t seem right that there warn’t [nobody] to make some about her, now she was gone; so I tried to sweat out a verse or two [myself] but I couldn’t seem to make it go, somehow. [They kept Emmeline’s room trim and [nice,] and all the things fixed in it just the way she liked] to have them when she was alive, and nobody ever slept there. The old lady took care of the room herself, though there was plenty of niggers, and she sewed there a good deal and read her Bible there, mostly.
Well, as I was saying about the parlor, there was beautiful curtains on the [windows,] white, with pictures painted on them, of castles with vines all down the walls, and cattle coming down to drink. There was a [little old piano, too, that had tin pans in it], I reckon, and nothing was ever so [lovely] as to hear the [young ladies [sing] [[“The Last Link is Broken”]] and play [[“The Battle of Prague”]] on it. [The walls of all the rooms was plastered], and most had carpets on the floors, and the whole [house] was whitewashed on the outside.
It was a double house and the big open place betwixt them was roofed and floored, and sometimes the table was set there in the middle of the [day] and it was a cool, comfortable place. Nothing couldn’t be better. And warn’t the cooking [good] and just bushels of [it,] [too!]]