THE ARREST OF UNCLE SILAS
THEM awful words froze us solid. We couldn't move hand or foot for as much as half a minute. Then we kind of come to, and lifted the old man up and got him into his chair, and Benny petted him and kissed him and tried to comfort him, and poor old Aunt Sally she done the same; but,poor things, they was so broke up and scared and knocked out of their right minds that they didn't hardly know what they was about. With Tom it was awful; it 'most petrified him to think maybe he had got his uncle into a thousand times more trouble than ever, and maybe it wouldn't ever happened if he hadn't been so ambitious to get celebrated, and let the corpse alone the way the others done. But pretty soon he sort of come to himself again and says:
"Uncle Silas, don't you say another word like that. It's dangerous, and there ain't a shadder of truth in it."
Aunt Sally and Benny was thankful to hear him say that, and they said the same; but the old man he wagged his head sorrowful and hopeless, and the tears run down his face, and he says;
"No--I done it; poor Jubiter, I done it!"
It was dreadful to hear him say it. Then he went on and told about it,and said it happened the day me and Tom come--along about sundown. Hesaid Jubiter pestered him and aggravated him till he was so mad he justsort of lost his mind and grabbed up a stick and hit him over the headwith all his might, and Jubiter dropped in his tracks. Then he was scaredand sorry, and got down on his knees and lifted his head up, and beggedhim to speak and say he wasn't dead; and before long he come to, and whenhe see who it was holding his head, he jumped like he was 'most scared todeath, and cleared the fence and tore into the woods, and was gone. Sohe hoped he wasn't hurt bad.
"But laws," he says, "it was only just fear that gave him that lastlittle spurt of strength, and of course it soon played out and he laiddown in the bush, and there wasn't anybody to help him, and he died."
Then the old man cried and grieved, and said he was a murderer and themark of Cain was on him, and he had disgraced his family and was going tobe found out and hung. But Tom said:
"No, you ain't going to be found out. You DIDN'T kill him. ONE lickwouldn't kill him. Somebody else done it."
"Oh, yes," he says, "I done it--nobody else. Who else had anythingagainst him? Who else COULD have anything against him?"
He looked up kind of like he hoped some of us could mention somebody thatcould have a grudge against that harmless no-account, but of course itwarn't no use--he HAD us; we couldn't say a word. He noticed that, andhe saddened down again, and I never see a face so miserable and sopitiful to see. Tom had a sudden idea, and says:
"But hold on!--somebody BURIED him. Now who--"
He shut off sudden. I knowed the reason. It give me the cold shudderswhen he said them words, because right away I remembered about us seeingUncle Silas prowling around with a long-handled shovel away in the nightthat night. And I knowed Benny seen him, too, because she was talkingabout it one day. The minute Tom shut off he changed the subject andwent to begging Uncle Silas to keep mum, and the rest of us done thesame, and said he MUST, and said it wasn't his business to tell onhimself, and if he kept mum nobody would ever know; but if it was foundout and any harm come to him it would break the family's hearts and killthem, and yet never do anybody any good. So at last he promised. We wasall of us more comfortable, then, and went to work to cheer up the oldman. We told him all he'd got to do was to keep still, and it wouldn'tbe long till the whole thing would blow over and be forgot. We all saidthere wouldn't anybody ever suspect Uncle Silas, nor ever dream of such athing, he being so good and kind, and having such a good character; andTom says, cordial and hearty, he says:
"Why, just look at it a minute; just consider. Here is Uncle Silas, allthese years a preacher--at his own expense; all these years doing goodwith all his might and every way he can think of--at his own expense, allthe time; always been loved by everybody, and respected; always beenpeaceable and minding his own business, the very last man in this wholedeestrict to touch a person, and everybody knows it. Suspect HIM? Why,it ain't any more possible than--"
"By authority of the State of Arkansaw, I arrest you for the murder ofJubiter Dunlap!" shouts the sheriff at the door.
It was awful. Aunt Sally and Benny flung themselves at Uncle Silas,screaming and crying, and hugged him and hung to him, and Aunt Sally saidgo away, she wouldn't ever give him up, they shouldn't have him, and theniggers they come crowding and crying to the door and--well, I couldn'tstand it; it was enough to break a person's heart; so I got out.
They took him up to the little one-horse jail in the village, and we allwent along to tell him good-bye; and Tom was feeling elegant, and says tome, "We'll have a most noble good time and heaps of danger some darknight getting him out of there, Huck, and it'll be talked abouteverywheres and we will be celebrated;" but the old man busted thatscheme up the minute he whispered to him about it. He said no, it was hisduty to stand whatever the law done to him, and he would stick to thejail plumb through to the end, even if there warn't no door to it. Itdisappointed Tom and graveled him a good deal, but he had to put up withit.
But he felt responsible and bound to get his uncle Silas free; and hetold Aunt Sally, the last thing, not to worry, because he was going toturn in and work night and day and beat this game and fetch Uncle Silasout innocent; and she was very loving to him and thanked him and said sheknowed he would do his very best. And she told us to help Benny takecare of the house and the children, and then we had a good-bye cry allaround and went back to the farm, and left her there to live with thejailer's wife a month till the trial in October.