He looked closer and said:

"Why, Mammy, the end of your nose is skinned. How did that come?"

She sent out the sort of wholehearted peal of laughter which God had vouchsafed in its perfection to none but the happy angels in heaven and the bruised and broken black slave on the earth, and said:

"Dad fetch dat duel, I be'n in it myself."

"Gracious! did a bullet to that?"

"Yassir, you bet it did!"

"Well, I declare! Why, how did that happen?"

"Happened dis-away. I 'uz a-sett'n' here kinder dozin' in de dark, en _che-bang!_ goes a gun, right out dah. I skips along out towards t'other end o' de house to see what's gwine on, en stops by de ole winder on de side towards Pudd'nhead Wilson's house dat ain't got no sash in it-- but dey ain't none of 'em got any sashes, for as dat's concerned-- en I stood dah in de dark en look out, en dar in the moonlight, right down under me 'uz one o' de twins a-cussin'--not much, but jist a-cussin' soft--it 'uz de brown one dat 'uz cussin,' 'ca'se he 'uz hit in de shoulder. En Doctor Claypool he 'uz a-workin' at him, en Pudd'nhead Wilson he 'uz a-he'pin', en ole Jedge Driscoll en Pem Howard 'uz a-standin' out yonder a little piece waitin' for 'em to get ready agin. En treckly dey squared off en give de word, en _bang-bang_ went de pistols, en de twin he say, 'Ouch!'--hit him on de han' dis time --en I hear dat same bullet go _spat!_ ag'in de logs under de winder; en de nex' time dey shoot, de twin say, 'Ouch!' ag'in, en I done it too, 'ca'se de bullet glance' on his cheekbone en skip up here en glance' on de side o' de winder en whiz right acrost my face en tuck de hide off'n my nose-- why, if I'd 'a'; be'n jist a inch or a inch en a half furder 't would 'a' tuck de whole nose en disfiggered me. Here's de bullet; I hunted her up."

"Did you stand there all the time?"

"Dat's a question to ask, ain't it! What else would I do? Does I git a chance to see a duel every day?"

"Why, you were right in range! Weren't you afraid?"

The woman gave a sniff of scorn.

"'Fraid! De Smith-Pocahontases ain't 'fraid o' nothin', let alone bullets."

"They've got pluck enough, I suppose; what they lack is judgment. _I_ wouldn't have stood there."

"Nobody's accusin' you!"

"Did anybody else get hurt?"

"Yes, we all got hit 'cep' de blon' twin en de doctor en de seconds. De Jedge didn't git hurt, but I hear Pudd'nhead say de bullet snip some o' his ha'r off."

"'George!" said Tom to himself, "to come so near being out of my trouble, and miss it by an inch. Oh dear, dear, he will live to find me out and sell me to some nigger trader yet--yes, and he would do it in a minute." Then he said aloud, in a grave tone:

"Mother, we are in an awful fix."

Roxana caught her breath with a spasm, and said:

"Chile! What you hit a body so sudden for, like dat? What's be'n en gone en happen'?"

"Well, there's one thing I didn't tell you. When I wouldn't fight, he tore up the will again, and--"

Roxana's face turned a dead white, and she said:

"Now you's _done!_--done forever! Dat's de end. Bofe un us is gwine to starve to--"

"Wait and hear me through, can't you! I reckon that when he resolved to fight, himself, he thought he might get killed and not have a chance to forgive me any more in this life, so he made the will again, and I've seen it, and it's all right. But--"

"Oh, thank goodness, den we's safe ag'in!--safe! en so what did you want to come here en talk sich dreadful--"

"Hold ON, I tell you, and let me finish. The swag I gathered won't half square me up, and the first thing we know, my creditors-- well, you know what'll happen."

Roxana dropped her chin, and told her son to leave her alone-- she must think this matter out. Presently she said impressively:

"You got to go mighty keerful now, I tell you! En here's what you got to do. He didn't git killed, en if you gives him de least reason, he'll bust de will ag'in, en dat's de _las'_ time, now you hear me! So--you's got to show him what you kin do in de nex' few days. You got to be pison good, en let him see it; you got to do everything dat'll make him b'lieve in you, en you got to sweeten aroun' ole Aunt Pratt, too--she's pow'ful strong with de Jedge, en de bes' frien' you got. Nex', you'll go 'long away to Sent Louis, en dat'll _keep_ him in yo' favor. Den you go en make a bargain wid dem people.

The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson Page 43

Mark Twain

Free Books in the public domain from the Classic Literature Library ©

Mark Twain
Classic Literature Library

All Pages of This Book