TWO or three days and nights went by; I reckon I might
say they swum by, they slid along so quiet and smooth and
lovely. Here is the way we put in the time. It was a
monstrous big river down there — sometimes a mile and a
half wide; we run nights, and laid up and hid daytimes;
soon as night was most gone we stopped navigating and
tied up — nearly always in the dead water under a
towhead; and then cut young cottonwoods and willows, and
hid the raft with them. Then we set out the lines. Next
we slid into the river and had a swim, so as to freshen
up and cool off; then we set down on the sandy bottom
where the water was about knee deep, and watched the
daylight come. Not a sound anywheres — perfectly still
— just like the whole world was asleep, only sometimes
the bullfrogs a-cluttering, maybe. The first thing to
see, looking away over the water, was a kind of dull line
— that was the woods on t'other side; you couldn't make
nothing else out; then a pale place in the sky; then more
paleness spreading around; then the river softened up
away off, and warn't black any more, but gray; you could
see little dark spots drifting along ever so far away —
trading scows, and such things; and long black streaks —
rafts; sometimes you could hear a sweep screaking; or
jumbled up voices, it was so still, and sounds come so
far; and by and by you could see a streak on the water
which you know by the look of the streak that there's a
snag there in a swift current which breaks on it and
makes that streak look that way; and you see the mist
curl up off of the water, and the east reddens up, and
the river, and you make out a log-cabin in the edge of
the woods, away on the bank on t'other side of the river,
being a woodyard, likely, and piled by them cheats so you
can throw a dog through it anywheres; then the nice
breeze springs up, and comes fanning you from over there,
so cool and fresh and sweet to smell on account of the
woods and the flowers; but sometimes not that way,
because they've left dead fish laying around, gars and
such, and they do get pretty rank; and next you've got
the full day, and everything smiling in the sun, and the
song-birds just going it!
A little smoke couldn't be noticed now, so we would
take some fish off of the lines and cook up a hot
breakfast. And afterwards we would watch the lonesomeness
of the river, and kind of lazy along, and by and by lazy
off to sleep. Wake up by and by, and look to see what
done it, and maybe see a steamboat coughing along up-stream,
so far off towards the other side you couldn't tell
nothing about her only whether she was a stern-wheel or
side-wheel; then for about an hour there wouldn't be
nothing to hear nor nothing to see — just solid
lonesomeness. Next you'd see a raft sliding by, away off
yonder, and maybe a galoot on it chopping, because
they're most always doing it on a raft; you'd see the axe
flash and come down — you don't hear nothing; you see
that axe go up again, and by the time it's above the
man's head then you hear the K'CHUNK! — it had took all
that time to come over the water. So we would put in the
day, lazying around, listening to the stillness. Once
there was a thick fog, and the rafts and things that went
by was beating tin pans so the steamboats wouldn't run
over them. A scow or a raft went by so close we could
hear them talking and cussing and laughing — heard them
plain; but we couldn't see no sign of them; it made you
feel crawly; it was like spirits carrying on that way in
the air. Jim said he believed it was spirits; but I says:
"No; spirits wouldn't say, 'Dern the dern fog.'"
Soon as it was night out we shoved; when we got her
out to about the middle we let her alone, and let her
float wherever the current wanted her to; then we lit the
pipes, and dangled our legs in the water, and talked
about all kinds of things — we was always naked, day and
night, whenever the mosquitoes would let us — the new
clothes Buck's folks made for me was too good to be
comfortable, and besides I didn't go much on clothes,
Sometimes we'd have that whole river all to ourselves
for the longest time. Yonder was the banks and the
islands, across the water; and maybe a spark — which was
a candle in a cabin window; and sometimes on the water
you could see a spark or two — on a raft or a scow, you
know; and maybe you could hear a fiddle or a song coming
over from one of them crafts. It's lovely to live on a
raft. We had the sky up there, all speckled with stars,
and we used to lay on our backs and look up at them, and
discuss about whether they was made or only just happened.
Jim he allowed they was made, but I allowed they
happened; I judged it would have took too long to MAKE so
many. Jim said the moon could a LAID them; well, that
looked kind of reasonable, so I didn't say nothing
against it, because I've seen a frog lay most as many, so
of course it could be done. We used to watch the stars
that fell, too, and see them streak down. Jim allowed
they'd got spoiled and was hove out of the nest.
Once or twice of a night we would see a steamboat
slipping along in the dark, and now and then she would
belch a whole world of sparks up out of her chimbleys,
and they would rain down in the river and look awful
pretty; then she would turn a corner and her lights would
wink out and her powwow shut off and leave the river
still again; and by and by her waves would get to us, a
long time after she was gone, and joggle the raft a bit,
and after that you wouldn't hear nothing for you couldn't
tell how long, except maybe frogs or something.
After midnight the people on shore went to bed, and
then for two or three hours the shores was black — no
more sparks in the cabin windows. These sparks was our
clock — the first one that showed again meant morning
was coming, so we hunted a place to hide and tie up right
One morning about daybreak I found a canoe and crossed
over a chute to the main shore — it was only two hundred
yards — and paddled about a mile up a crick amongst the
cypress woods, to see if I couldn't get some berries.
Just as I was passing a place where a kind of a cowpath
crossed the crick, here comes a couple of men tearing up
the path as tight as they could foot it. I thought I was
a goner, for whenever anybody was after anybody I judged
it was ME — or maybe Jim. I was about to dig out from
there in a hurry, but they was pretty close to me then,
and sung out and begged me to save their lives — said
they hadn't been doing nothing, and was being chased for
it — said there was men and dogs a-coming. They wanted
to jump right in, but I says:
"Don't you do it. I don't hear the dogs and
horses yet; you've got time to crowd through the brush
and get up the crick a little ways; then you take to the
water and wade down to me and get in — that'll throw the
dogs off the scent."
They done it, and soon as they was aboard I lit out
for our towhead, and in about five or ten minutes we
heard the dogs and the men away off, shouting. We heard
them come along towards the crick, but couldn't see them;
they seemed to stop and fool around a while; then, as we
got further and further away all the time, we couldn't
hardly hear them at all; by the time we had left a mile
of woods behind us and struck the river, everything was
quiet, and we paddled over to the towhead and hid in the
cottonwoods and was safe.
One of these fellows was about seventy or upwards, and
had a bald head and very gray whiskers. He had an old
battered-up slouch hat on, and a greasy blue woollen
shirt, and ragged old blue jeans britches stuffed into
his boot-tops, and home-knit galluses — no, he only had
one. He had an old long-tailed blue jeans coat with slick
brass buttons flung over his arm, and both of them had
big, fat, ratty-looking carpet-bags.
The other fellow was about thirty, and dressed about
as ornery. After breakfast we all laid off and talked,
and the first thing that come out was that these chaps
didn't know one another.
"What got you into trouble?" says the
baldhead to t'other chap.
"Well, I'd been selling an article to take the
tartar off the teeth — and it does take it off, too, and
generly the enamel along with it — but I stayed about
one night longer than I ought to, and was just in the act
of sliding out when I ran across you on the trail this
side of town, and you told me they were coming, and
begged me to help you to get off. So I told you I was
expecting trouble myself, and would scatter out WITH you.
That's the whole yarn — what's yourn?
"Well, I'd ben a-running' a little temperance
revival thar 'bout a week, and was the pet of the women
folks, big and little, for I was makin' it mighty warm
for the rummies, I TELL you, and takin' as much as five
or six dollars a night — ten cents a head, children and
niggers free — and business a-growin' all the time, when
somehow or another a little report got around last night
that I had a way of puttin' in my time with a private jug
on the sly. A nigger rousted me out this mornin', and
told me the people was getherin' on the quiet with their
dogs and horses, and they'd be along pretty soon and give
me 'bout half an hour's start, and then run me down if
they could; and if they got me they'd tar and feather me
and ride me on a rail, sure. I didn't wait for no
breakfast — I warn't hungry."
"Old man," said the young one, "I
reckon we might double-team it together; what do you
"I ain't undisposed. What's your line — mainly?"
"Jour printer by trade; do a little in patent
medicines; theater-actor — tragedy, you know; take a
turn to mesmerism and phrenology when there's a chance;
teach singing-geography school for a change; sling a
lecture sometimes — oh, I do lots of things — most
anything that comes handy, so it ain't work. What's your
"I've done considerble in the doctoring way in my
time. Layin' on o' hands is my best holt — for cancer
and paralysis, and sich things; and I k'n tell a fortune
pretty good when I've got somebody along to find out the
facts for me. Preachin's my line, too, and workin' camp-meetin's,
and missionaryin' around."
Nobody never said anything for a while; then the young
man hove a sigh and says:
"What 're you alassin' about?" says the
"To think I should have lived to be leading such
a life, and be degraded down into such company." And
he begun to wipe the corner of his eye with a rag.
"Dern your skin, ain't the company good enough
for you?" says the baldhead, pretty pert and uppish.
" Yes, it IS good enough for me; it's as good as
I deserve; for who fetched me so low when I was so high?
I did myself. I don't blame YOU, gentlemen — far from
it; I don't blame anybody. I deserve it all. Let the cold
world do its worst; one thing I know — there's a grave
somewhere for me. The world may go on just as it's always
done, and take everything from me — loved ones,
property, everything; but it can't take that. Some day
I'll lie down in it and forget it all, and my poor broken
heart will be at rest." He went on a-wiping.
"Drot your pore broken heart," says the
baldhead; "what are you heaving your pore broken
heart at US f'r? WE hain't done nothing."
"No, I know you haven't. I ain't blaming you,
gentlemen. I brought myself down — yes, I did it myself.
It's right I should suffer — perfectly right — I don't
make any moan."
"Brought you down from whar? Whar was you brought
"Ah, you would not believe me; the world never
believes — let it pass — 'tis no matter. The secret of
my birth —"
"The secret of your birth! Do you mean to say
"Gentlemen," says the young man, very
solemn, "I will reveal it to you, for I feel I may
have confidence in you. By rights I am a duke!"
Jim's eyes bugged out when he heard that; and I reckon
mine did, too. Then the baldhead says: "No! you
can't mean it?"
"Yes. My great-grandfather, eldest son of the
Duke of Bridgewater, fled to this country about the end
of the last century, to breathe the pure air of freedom;
married here, and died, leaving a son, his own father
dying about the same time. The second son of the late
duke seized the titles and estates — the infant real
duke was ignored. I am the lineal descendant of that
infant — I am the rightful Duke of Bridgewater; and here
am I, forlorn, torn from my high estate, hunted of men,
despised by the cold world, ragged, worn, heart-broken,
and degraded to the companionship of felons on a raft!"
Jim pitied him ever so much, and so did I. We tried to
comfort him, but he said it warn't much use, he couldn't
be much comforted; said if we was a mind to acknowledge
him, that would do him more good than most anything else;
so we said we would, if he would tell us how. He said we
ought to bow when we spoke to him, and say "Your
Grace," or "My Lord," or "Your
Lordship" — and he wouldn't mind it if we called
him plain "Bridgewater," which, he said, was a
title anyway, and not a name; and one of us ought to wait
on him at dinner, and do any little thing for him he
Well, that was all easy, so we done it. All through
dinner Jim stood around and waited on him, and says,
"Will yo' Grace have some o' dis or some o' dat?"
and so on, and a body could see it was mighty pleasing to
But the old man got pretty silent by and by — didn't
have much to say, and didn't look pretty comfortable over
all that petting that was going on around that duke. He
seemed to have something on his mind. So, along in the
afternoon, he says:
"Looky here, Bilgewater," he says, "I'm
nation sorry for you, but you ain't the only person
that's had troubles like that."
"No you ain't. You ain't the only person that's
ben snaked down wrongfully out'n a high place."
"No, you ain't the only person that's had a
secret of his birth." And, by jings, HE begins to
"Hold! What do you mean?"
"Bilgewater, kin I trust you?" says the old
man, still sort of sobbing.
"To the bitter death!" He took the old man
by the hand and squeezed it, and says, "That secret
of your being: speak!"
"Bilgewater, I am the late Dauphin!"
You bet you, Jim and me stared this time. Then the
"You are what?"
"Yes, my friend, it is too true — your eyes is
lookin' at this very moment on the pore disappeared
Dauphin, Looy the Seventeen, son of Looy the Sixteen and
"You! At your age! No! You mean you're the late
Charlemagne; you must be six or seven hundred years old,
at the very least."
"Trouble has done it, Bilgewater, trouble has
done it; trouble has brung these gray hairs and this
premature balditude. Yes, gentlemen, you see before you,
in blue jeans and misery, the wanderin', exiled, trampled-on,
and sufferin' rightful King of France."
Well, he cried and took on so that me and Jim didn't
know hardly what to do, we was so sorry — and so glad
and proud we'd got him with us, too. So we set in, like
we done before with the duke, and tried to comfort HIM.
But he said it warn't no use, nothing but to be dead and
done with it all could do him any good; though he said it
often made him feel easier and better for a while if
people treated him according to his rights, and got down
on one knee to speak to him, and always called him "Your
Majesty," and waited on him first at meals, and
didn't set down in his presence till he asked them. So
Jim and me set to majestying him, and doing this and that
and t'other for him, and standing up till he told us we
might set down. This done him heaps of good, and so he
got cheerful and comfortable. But the duke kind of soured
on him, and didn't look a bit satisfied with the way
things was going; still, the king acted real friendly
towards him, and said the duke's great-grandfather and
all the other Dukes of Bilgewater was a good deal thought
of by HIS father, and was allowed to come to the palace
considerable; but the duke stayed huffy a good while,
till by and by the king says:
"Like as not we got to be together a blamed long
time on this h-yer raft, Bilgewater, and so what's the
use o' your bein' sour? It 'll only make things
oncomfortable. It ain't my fault I warn't born a duke, it
ain't your fault you warn't born a king — so what's the
use to worry? Make the best o' things the way you find
'em, says I — that's my motto. This ain't no bad thing
that we've struck here — plenty grub and an easy life —
come, give us your hand, duke, and le's all be friends."
The duke done it, and Jim and me was pretty glad to
see it. It took away all the uncomfortableness and we
felt mighty good over it, because it would a been a
miserable business to have any unfriendliness on the
raft; for what you want, above all things, on a raft, is
for everybody to be satisfied, and feel right and kind
towards the others.
It didn't take me long to make up my mind that these
liars warn't no kings nor dukes at all, but just low-down
humbugs and frauds. But I never said nothing, never let
on; kept it to myself; it's the best way; then you don't
have no quarrels, and don't get into no trouble. If they
wanted us to call them kings and dukes, I hadn't no
objections, 'long as it would keep peace in the family;
and it warn't no use to tell Jim, so I didn't tell him.
If I never learnt nothing else out of pap, I learnt that
the best way to get along with his kind of people is to
let them have their own way.