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 the 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:
"Why, bless you, Saul, the poor thing's as wet as he can be; and don't you reckon it may be he's hungry?"
"True for you, Rachel -- I forgot."
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 -- oh, 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 four- teen or along there, though he was a little bigger than me. He hadn't on anything but a shirt, and he was very frowzy-headed. He came in gaping and digging one fist into his eyes, and he was dragging a gun along with the other one. He says:
"Ain't they no Shepherdsons around?"
They said, no, 'twas a false alarm.
"Well," he says, "if they'd a ben some, I reckon I'd a got one."
They all laughed, and Bob says:
"Why, Buck, they might have scalped us all, you've been so slow in coming."
"Well, nobody come after me, and it ain't right I'm always kept down; I don't get no show."
"Never mind, Buck, my boy," says the old man, "you'll have show enough, all in good time, don't you fret about that. Go 'long with you now, and do as your mother told you."
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 to tell me about a bluejay 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.
"How'm I going to guess," says I, "when I never heard tell of it before?"
"But you can guess, can't you? It's just as easy."
"WHICH candle?" I says.
"Why, any candle," he says.
"I don't know where he was," says I; "where was he?"
"Why, he was in the DARK! That's where he was!"
"Well, if you knowed where he was, what did you ask me for?"
"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 butter- milk -- 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 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.