WE had powerful good luck; because we got a chance in a stern-wheelerfrom away North which was bound for one of them bayous or one-horserivers away down Louisiana way, and so we could go all the way down theUpper Mississippi and all the way down the Lower Mississippi to that farmin Arkansaw without having to change steamboats at St. Louis; not so verymuch short of a thousand miles at one pull.
A pretty lonesome boat; there warn't but few passengers, and all oldfolks, that set around, wide apart, dozing, and was very quiet. We wasfour days getting out of the "upper river," because we got aground somuch. But it warn't dull--couldn't be for boys that was traveling, ofcourse.
From the very start me and Tom allowed that there was somebody sick inthe stateroom next to ourn, because the meals was always toted in thereby the waiters. By and by we asked about it--Tom did and the waiter saidit was a man, but he didn't look sick.
"Well, but AIN'T he sick?"
"I don't know; maybe he is, but 'pears to me he's just letting on."
"What makes you think that?"
"Because if he was sick he would pull his clothes off SOME time orother--don't you reckon he would? Well, this one don't. At least he don'tever pull off his boots, anyway."
"The mischief he don't! Not even when he goes to bed?"
It was always nuts for Tom Sawyer--a mystery was. If you'd lay out amystery and a pie before me and him, you wouldn't have to say take yourchoice; it was a thing that would regulate itself. Because in my natureI have always run to pie, whilst in his nature he has always run tomystery. People are made different. And it is the best way. Tom says tothe waiter:
"What's the man's name?"
"Where'd he come aboard?"
"I think he got aboard at Elexandria, up on the Iowa line."
"What do you reckon he's a-playing?"
"I hain't any notion--I never thought of it."
I says to myself, here's another one that runs to pie.
"Anything peculiar about him?--the way he acts or talks?"
"No--nothing, except he seems so scary, and keeps his doors locked nightand day both, and when you knock he won't let you in till he opens thedoor a crack and sees who it is."
"By jimminy, it's int'resting! I'd like to get a look at him. Say--thenext time you're going in there, don't you reckon you could spread thedoor and--"
"No, indeedy! He's always behind it. He would block that game."
Tom studied over it, and then he says:
"Looky here. You lend me your apern and let me take him his breakfast inthe morning. I'll give you a quarter."
The boy was plenty willing enough, if the head steward wouldn't mind.Tom says that's all right, he reckoned he could fix it with the headsteward; and he done it. He fixed it so as we could both go in withaperns on and toting vittles.
He didn't sleep much, he was in such a sweat to get in there and find outthe mystery about Phillips; and moreover he done a lot of guessing aboutit all night, which warn't no use, for if you are going to find out thefacts of a thing, what's the sense in guessing out what ain't the factsand wasting ammunition? I didn't lose no sleep. I wouldn't give a dernto know what's the matter of Phillips, I says to myself.
Well, in the morning we put on the aperns and got a couple of trays oftruck, and Tom he knocked on the door. The man opened it a crack, andthen he let us in and shut it quick. By Jackson, when we got a sight ofhim, we 'most dropped the trays! and Tom says:
"Why, Jubiter Dunlap, where'd YOU come from?"
Well, the man was astonished, of course; and first off he looked like hedidn't know whether to be scared, or glad, or both, or which, but finallyhe settled down to being glad; and then his color come back, though atfirst his face had turned pretty white. So we got to talking togetherwhile he et his breakfast. And he says:
"But I aint Jubiter Dunlap. I'd just as soon tell you who I am, though,if you'll swear to keep mum, for I ain't no Phillips, either."
"We'll keep mum, but there ain't any need to tell who you are if youain't Jubiter Dunlap."
"Because if you ain't him you're t'other twin, Jake. You're the spit'nimage of Jubiter."
"Well, I'm Jake. But looky here, how do you come to know us Dunlaps?"
Tom told about the adventures we'd had down there at his uncle Silas'slast summer, and when he see that there warn't anything about hisfolks--or him either, for that matter--that we didn't know, he opened outand talked perfectly free and candid. He never made any bones about hisown case; said he'd been a hard lot, was a hard lot yet, and reckonedhe'd be a hard lot plumb to the end. He said of course it was adangerous life, and--He give a kind of gasp, and set his head like aperson that's listening. We didn't say anything, and so it was verystill for a second or so, and there warn't no sounds but the screaking ofthe woodwork and the chug-chugging of the machinery down below.
Then we got him comfortable again, telling him about his people, and howBrace's wife had been dead three years, and Brace wanted to marry Bennyand she shook him, and Jubiter was working for Uncle Silas, and him andUncle Silas quarreling all the time--and then he let go and laughed.
"Land!" he says, "it's like old times to hear all this tittle-tattle, anddoes me good. It's been seven years and more since I heard any. How dothey talk about me these days?"
"The farmers--and the family."
"Why, they don't talk about you at all--at least only just a mention,once in a long time."
"The nation!" he says, surprised; "why is that?"
"Because they think you are dead long ago."
"No! Are you speaking true?--honor bright, now." He jumped up, excited.
"Honor bright. There ain't anybody thinks you are alive."
"Then I'm saved, I'm saved, sure! I'll go home. They'll hide me and savemy life. You keep mum. Swear you'll keep mum--swear you'll never, nevertell on me. Oh, boys, be good to a poor devil that's being hunted dayand night, and dasn't show his face! I've never done you any harm; I'llnever do you any, as God is in the heavens; swear you'll be good to meand help me save my life."
We'd a swore it if he'd been a dog; and so we done it. Well, he couldn'tlove us enough for it or be grateful enough, poor cuss; it was all hecould do to keep from hugging us.
We talked along, and he got out a little hand-bag and begun to open it,and told us to turn our backs. We done it, and when he told us to turnagain he was perfectly different to what he was before. He had on bluegoggles and the naturalest-looking long brown whiskers and mustashes youever see. His own mother wouldn't 'a' knowed him. He asked us if helooked like his brother Jubiter, now.
"No," Tom said; "there ain't anything left that's like him except thelong hair."
"All right, I'll get that cropped close to my head before I get there;then him and Brace will keep my secret, and I'll live with them as beinga stranger, and the neighbors won't ever guess me out. What do youthink?"
Tom he studied awhile, then he says:
"Well, of course me and Huck are going to keep mum there, but if youdon't keep mum yourself there's going to be a little bit of a risk--itain't much, maybe, but it's a little. I mean, if you talk, won't peoplenotice that your voice is just like Jubiter's; and mightn't it make themthink of the twin they reckoned was dead, but maybe after all was hid allthis time under another name?"
"By George," he says, "you're a sharp one! You're perfectly right. I'vegot to play deef and dumb when there's a neighbor around. If I'd astruck for home and forgot that little detail--However, I wasn't strikingfor home. I was breaking for any place where I could get away from thesefellows that are after me; then I was going to put on this disguise andget some different clothes, and--"
He jumped for the outside door and laid his ear against it and listened,pale and kind of panting. Presently he whispers:
"Sounded like cocking a gun! Lord, what a life to lead!"
Then he sunk down in a chair all limp and sick like, and wiped the sweatoff of his face.