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[page 189]
figure
figure

sherburn steps out.

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][swarmed up the [street,] towards Sherburn’s house, a-whooping and [yelling] [and raging] like Injuns, and everything had to clear the way or get run over [and tromped] to mush, and it was awful to see. Children was heeling [it] ahead of the mob, screaming and trying to get out of the way; and every window along the road was full of women’s heads, and there was nigger boys in every tree, and bucks and wenches looking over every fence; and as soon as the mob would get nearly to them they would break and skaddle back out of reach. [Lots] of the women and girls was crying and taking on, scared most to death.

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They swarmed [up] in front of Sherburn’s [palings] as thick as they could [jam together], and you couldn’t hear yourself think for the noise. It was a little twenty-foot yard. Some sung [out,] “Tear down the fence! tear down the fence!” Then there was a [racket] of ripping and tearing and smashing, and down [she goes], and the front wall of the crowd [begins] to roll in like a wave.

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Just then Sherburn [steps] out [onto] the roof] of his little front porch, with a double-barrel gun in [his hand], and [takes] his stand, perfectly ca’m and [deliberate,] not saying a word. The [racket] [stopped, and the wave sucked back.]

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Sherburn never said a word—just stood there, looking down. [The] [page 190] stillness was [awful] creepy and uncomfortable. Sherburn run his eye slow along the crowd; and wherever [it] struck, the people tried a little to outgaze him, [but they] couldn’t; they dropped their eyes and looked [sneaky]. Then pretty soon Sherburn sort of laughed; not the [pleasant kind], but the kind [that makes you feel like when you are eating bread that’s got sand in it].

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[Then] he says, slow and scornful:

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“The idea of you lynching anybody! [It’s] amusing. The idea of [you thinking] you had pluck enough to lynch a man! Because [you’re] brave enough to tar and feather poor friendless cast-out women that come along [[here], did that make you think you had grit] enough to lay your hands on a man? Why, a [man’s] safe in the hands of ten thousand of your kind—as long as it’s [daytime] and you’re not behind him.

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“Do I know you? I know you clear [through]. I was born and raised in the [south], and I’ve lived in the [north]; so I know the average [all around]. The average [man’s] a coward. In the [north] he lets [anybody] walk over him that wants to, and goes home and prays for a humble spirit to bear [it]. [In the [south] one man, all [by himself], has stopped a stage full of men, in [the daytime], and robbed the lot.] Your [newspapers] call you a brave people so much that you think you are braver than any other people—whereas you’re just as brave, and no braver. Why don’t your [juries] hang murderers? Because [they’re afraid the man’s friends] will shoot them in the back, in the dark—and it’s just what they would do.

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“So [they] always acquit; and then a man goes [in the] night, with a hundred masked cowards at his [back, and] lynches [the] rascal. Your mistake is, that you didn’t bring a [man] with you; that’s one mistake, and the other is that you didn’t come in the dark, and fetch your masks. You brought part of a man—Buck [Harkness, there]—and if you hadn’t had him to start you, you’d [a taken] it out in blowing.

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“You didn’t want to come. The average man don’t like trouble and danger. You don’t like trouble and danger. But if only half a man—like Buck Harkness, there—shouts ‘Lynch him, lynch him!’ you’re afraid to back down—afraid you’ll be [found out] to be what you are—cowards—and so you raise a yell, and hang yourselves onto that half-a-man’s coat tail, and come raging up here, swearing what big things you’re going to do. The pitifulest thing [out] is a mob; [page 191] that’s what an army is—a mob; they [don’t] fight with courage that’s born in them, but with courage [that’s] borrowed from their mass, and from their officers. But a mob without any man at the head of it, is beneath pitifulness. Now the thing for you to do, is to droop your tails and go home and crawl in a hole. If any [[real]] lynching’s going to be done, it will be done in the dark, [southern] fashion; and when they [come,] [they’ll] bring their masks, and fetch a man along. Now [leave]—and take your [half-a-man] with you”—tossing his gun up across his left arm and cocking [it, when he says this].

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The crowd washed back [sudden], and then broke all apart and went tearing off [every which way], and Buck Harkness he heeled it after them, looking tolerable cheap. I could a staid, if I’d [a wanted] to, but I didn’t want [to.

figure

a dead head.

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I] went to the circus, and loafed around the back side till the [watchman] [went] by, and then dived in under the tent. I had my twenty-dollar gold piece and some other money, but I reckoned I better save it, because there ain’t no telling how soon you are going to need it, away from home and amongst strangers, that way. You can’t be too careful. I ain’t opposed to spending money on circuses, when there ain’t no other way, but there ain’t no use in wasting it on them.

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It was a real bully circus. It was the splendidest sight that ever was, when they all come riding in, two and two, a [gentleman] and [page 192] [lady], side by side, the men just in their drawers [and [undershirts],] and no shoes nor stirrups, and resting their hands on their thighs, easy and [comfortable,]—there must [a] been twenty of them—and every lady with a lovely complexion, and perfectly beautiful, and looking just like a gang of real sure-enough queens, and dressed in clothes that cost millions of dollars, and just littered with [dimonds]. It was a powerful fine sight; I never see anything so lovely. And then one by one [they] got up and stood, and went a-weaving around the ring so [gentle,] and wavy and graceful, the men looking ever so tall and airy and straight, [with] their heads bobbing and skimming along, away up there under the tent-roof, and every lady’s [rose-leafy] dress flapping soft and silky around her [hips, and] she looking like the most loveliest parasol.

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And then faster and faster they went, all of them dancing, first one foot [stuck out] in the air and then the other, the horses leaning more and more, and the [ring-master] going round and round the centre-pole, cracking his whip and shouting “[Hi!]—hi!” and the clown cracking jokes behind him; and [by and by,] all hands dropped the reins, and every lady put her knuckles [on her] hips and every gentleman folded his arms, and then how the horses did lean over [and] [hump themselves]! And so, one after the other they all skipped off into the ring, and made the sweetest [bow I ever see], and then [scampered] out, and everybody clapped their hands and went [just about] wild.

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Well, [all through the circus they done the most astonishing things]; and all the [time,] that clown carried on [so it] most killed the people. The ring-master couldn’t ever say a [word] to him but he was back at him quick as a wink with the funniest things a body ever said; and how he ever could think of so many of them, and so sudden and so pat, was what I couldn’t [no way] understand. Why, I couldn’t a thought of them in a year. And [by and by] a drunk man tried to get into the ring—said he wanted to ride; said he could ride as well as anybody that ever was. They [argued] and tried to keep him out, but he wouldn’t [listen], and the whole show come to a standstill. Then the people begun to holler at him and make fun of him, and that made him mad, and he begun to rip and tear; [so] that stirred up the people, and a lot of men begun to pile down off of the benches and swarm towards the ring, saying, “Knock him down! throw him out!” and one or two women begun to scream. So, then, the ring- [page 193] master he made a little speech, and said he hoped there wouldn’t be no disturbance, and if the man would promise he wouldn’t make no more [trouble], he would let him ride, if he thought he could stay on the horse. So everybody laughed and said all right, and the man got on. The minute he was on, the horse begun to rip and tear and [jump,] and cavort around, with two [circus] men hanging [onto] his bridle trying to hold him, and the drunk man hanging onto his neck, and his heels flying in the air [every] jump, and the whole crowd of people standing up shouting and laughing till the tears rolled [down]. And at last, sure enough, all the circus men could do, the horse broke loose, and away he [went] like the [very nation], round and round the ring, with that sot laying down on him and hanging to his neck, with first one leg hanging most to the ground [on] one side, and then [t’other one] on [t’other side], and the people just [crazy]. It warn’t funny to me, though; I was all of a tremble to see [his] danger. But pretty soon he struggled [up] astraddle and grabbed the bridle, a-reeling this way and that; and the next minute he sprung up [and dropped the [page 194] bridle] and stood! and the horse agoing like [a house afire,] too. He just [stood up] there, a-sailing around as easy and comfortable as if he [warn’t ever] drunk in his life—and then he begun to pull [off his] clothes and [[fling]] them. [He] shed them so thick they kind of clogged up the air, and altogether he shed seventeen suits. And then, there he was, slim and handsome, and dressed the gaudiest and prettiest you ever saw, and he lit into that horse with his whip and made him fairly hum—and finally skipped off, and made his bow and danced off to the [dressing room], and everybody just a-howling [with] pleasure and astonishment.

figure

he shed seventeen suits.

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Then the ring-master [he see] how he had been fooled, and he was the [sickest] ring-master [you ever see], I reckon. Why, it was one of his own men! He had got up that joke all out of his own head, and never let on to nobody. Well, I felt sheepish enough, to be took in so, but I wouldn’t a been in that [ring-master’s] [place] not [for] a thousand dollars. [I] don’t know; there may be bullier circuses than what that one was, but I never struck them yet. Anyways it was plenty good enough for me; and wherever I run across [it, it] [can] have all of my [custom, every time.]]

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[Well, that] night we had our [show,] but there [warn’t] only about twelve people [there;] just enough [to pay] expenses. And they laughed all the time, [and that] made the duke mad; and everybody left, [anyway], before the show was over, but one [boy which] was asleep. So the duke said these [Arkansaw] lunkheads couldn’t [come up to] [Shakspeare:] what they wanted was low comedy—and [maybe] something [ruther] worse than low comedy, he reckoned. He [said] he [could] size their style. So next morning he got some big sheets of [wrapping paper] and some black paint, and drawed off some [handbills] and stuck them up all over the village. The bills [said:]

[AT THE [COURT HOUSE]!

[for 3 nights [only]]!

The World-Renowned [Tragedians ]

DAVID GARRICK THE YOUNGER!

[ and ]

EDMUND KEAN THE ELDER!

[ Of ] the London and Continental

[Theatres],

[page 195]

[In their [Thrilling Tragedy of]

[THE KING’S CAMELOPARD

or

THE ROYAL NONESUCH]]!!!

Admission [ 50 ] cents. ]

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[Then at the bottom was the biggest line of all—which [said:]

LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT [ADMITTED.]

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“There,” says he, “if that line don’t fetch them, I [don’t know] Arkansaw!”]


Explanatory Notes: Expand | Collapse
Textual Commentary

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These notes identify real people, places, books, and events that Mark Twain drew upon for Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. They document historical, literary, and cultural allusions, parallels, analogues, or influences, both in the text and in E. W. Kemble’s illustrations.

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189.1–27 swarmed up the street . . . Sherburn steps out onto the roof] Sherburn, although portrayed as a villain in the previous chapter, here plays a more sympathetic role,

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190.19–20 In the south one man . . . robbed the lot.] Mark Twain used the same example, identifying the highwayman as a Kentuckian, in a chapter on violence in the South that

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192.25–26 all through the circus they done the most astonishing things] The comic acts Huck describes here were a traditional part of the circus in the nineteenth century. Talking clowns were a “key element”:

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195.1–4 Thrilling Tragedy of THE KING’S CAMELOPARD or THE ROYAL NONESUCH] In his manuscript Mark Twain entitled this skit “The Tragedy of the Burning Shame” and,