They swarmed up towards Sherburn’s
house, a-whooping and raging like Injuns, and everything
had to clear the way or get run over and tromped to
mush, and it was awful to see. Children was heeling
it ahead of the mob, screaming and trying to get out
of the way; and every window along the road was full
of women’s heads, and there was nigger boys in
every tree, and bucks and wenches looking over every
fence; and as soon as the mob would get nearly to
them they would break and skaddle back out of reach.
Lots of the women and girls was crying and taking
on, scared most to death.
They swarmed up in front of Sherburn’s
palings as thick as they could jam together, and you
couldn’t hear yourself think for the noise.
It was a little twenty-foot yard. Some sung
out “Tear down the fence! tear down the fence!”
Then there was a racket of ripping and tearing and
smashing, and down she goes, and the front wall of
the crowd begins to roll in like a wave.
Just then Sherburn steps out on to
the roof of his little front porch, with a double-barrel
gun in his hand, and takes his stand, perfectly ca’m
and deliberate, not saying a word. The racket
stopped, and the wave sucked back.
Sherburn never said a word just
stood there, looking down. The stillness was
awful creepy and uncomfortable. Sherburn run
his eye slow along the crowd; and wherever it struck
the people tried a little to out-gaze him, but they
couldn’t; they dropped their eyes and looked
sneaky. Then pretty soon Sherburn sort of laughed;
not the pleasant kind, but the kind that makes you
feel like when you are eating bread that’s got
sand in it.
Then he says, slow and scornful:
“The idea of you lynching
anybody! It’s amusing. The idea of
you thinking you had pluck enough to lynch a man!
Because you’re brave enough to tar and feather
poor friendless cast-out women that come along here,
did that make you think you had grit enough to lay
your hands on a man? Why, a man’s
safe in the hands of ten thousand of your kind as
long as it’s daytime and you’re not behind
“Do I know you? I know
you clear through was born and raised in the South,
and I’ve lived in the North; so I know the average
all around. The average man’s a coward.
In the North he lets anybody walk over him that wants
to, and goes home and prays for a humble spirit to
bear it. In the South one man all by himself,
has stopped a stage full of men in the daytime, and
robbed the lot. Your newspapers call you a brave
people so much that you think you are braver than
any other people whereas you’re just
as brave, and no braver. Why don’t
your juries hang murderers? Because they’re
afraid the man’s friends will shoot them in
the back, in the dark and it’s just
what they would do.
“So they always acquit; and
then a man goes in the night, with a hundred
masked cowards at his back and lynches the rascal.
Your mistake is, that you didn’t bring a man
with you; that’s one mistake, and the other is
that you didn’t come in the dark and fetch your
masks. You brought part of a man Buck
Harkness, there and if you hadn’t
had him to start you, you’d a taken it out in
“You didn’t want to come.
The average man don’t like trouble and danger.
You don’t like trouble and danger.
But if only half a man like Buck
Harkness, there shouts ‘Lynch him!
lynch him!’ you’re afraid to back down afraid
you’ll be found out to be what you are cowards and
so you raise a yell, and hang yourselves on to that
half-a-man’s coat-tail, and come raging up here,
swearing what big things you’re going to do.
The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that’s what
an army is a mob; they don’t fight
with courage that’s born in them, but with courage
that’s borrowed from their mass, and from their
officers. But a mob without any man at
the head of it is beneath pitifulness. Now
the thing for you to do is to droop your tails
and go home and crawl in a hole. If any real
lynching’s going to be done it will be done in
the dark, Southern fashion; and when they come they’ll
bring their masks, and fetch a man along.
Now leave and take your half-a-man
with you” tossing his gun up across
his left arm and cocking it when he says this.
The crowd washed back sudden, and
then broke all apart, and went tearing off every which
way, and Buck Harkness he heeled it after them, looking
tolerable cheap. I could a stayed if I wanted
to, but I didn’t want to.
I went to the circus and loafed around
the back side till the watchman went by, and then
dived in under the tent. I had my twenty-dollar
gold piece and some other money, but I reckoned I
better save it, because there ain’t no telling
how soon you are going to need it, away from home
and amongst strangers that way. You can’t
be too careful. I ain’t opposed to spending
money on circuses when there ain’t no other way,
but there ain’t no use in wasting it on
It was a real bully circus.
It was the splendidest sight that ever was when they
all come riding in, two and two, a gentleman and lady,
side by side, the men just in their drawers and undershirts,
and no shoes nor stirrups, and resting their hands
on their thighs easy and comfortable there
must a been twenty of them and every lady
with a lovely complexion, and perfectly beautiful,
and looking just like a gang of real sure-enough queens,
and dressed in clothes that cost millions of dollars,
and just littered with diamonds. It was a powerful
fine sight; I never see anything so lovely.
And then one by one they got up and stood, and went
a-weaving around the ring so gentle and wavy and graceful,
the men looking ever so tall and airy and straight,
with their heads bobbing and skimming along, away
up there under the tent-roof, and every lady’s
rose-leafy dress flapping soft and silky around her
hips, and she looking like the most loveliest parasol.
And then faster and faster they went,
all of them dancing, first one foot out in the air
and then the other, the horses leaning more and more,
and the ringmaster going round and round the center-pole,
cracking his whip and shouting “Hi! hi!”
and the clown cracking jokes behind him; and by and
by all hands dropped the reins, and every lady put
her knuckles on her hips and every gentleman folded
his arms, and then how the horses did lean over and
hump themselves! And so one after the other they
all skipped off into the ring, and made the sweetest
bow I ever see, and then scampered out, and everybody
clapped their hands and went just about wild.
Well, all through the circus they
done the most astonishing things; and all the time
that clown carried on so it most killed the people.
The ringmaster couldn’t ever say a word to
him but he was back at him quick as a wink with the
funniest things a body ever said; and how he ever
could think of so many of them, and so sudden
and so pat, was what I couldn’t noway understand.
Why, I couldn’t a thought of them in a year.
And by and by a drunk man tried to get into the ring said
he wanted to ride; said he could ride as well as anybody
that ever was. They argued and tried to keep
him out, but he wouldn’t listen, and the whole
show come to a standstill. Then the people begun
to holler at him and make fun of him, and that made
him mad, and he begun to rip and tear; so that stirred
up the people, and a lot of men begun to pile down
off of the benches and swarm towards the ring, saying,
“Knock him down! throw him out!” and one
or two women begun to scream. So, then, the ringmaster
he made a little speech, and said he hoped there wouldn’t
be no disturbance, and if the man would promise he
wouldn’t make no more trouble he would let him
ride if he thought he could stay on the horse.
So everybody laughed and said all right, and the
man got on. The minute he was on, the horse begun
to rip and tear and jump and cavort around, with two
circus men hanging on to his bridle trying to hold
him, and the drunk man hanging on to his neck, and
his heels flying in the air every jump, and the whole
crowd of people standing up shouting and laughing till
tears rolled down. And at last, sure enough,
all the circus men could do, the horse broke loose,
and away he went like the very nation, round and round
the ring, with that sot laying down on him and hanging
to his neck, with first one leg hanging most to the
ground on one side, and then t’other one on
t’other side, and the people just crazy.
It warn’t funny to me, though; I was all of
a tremble to see his danger. But pretty soon
he struggled up astraddle and grabbed the bridle,
a-reeling this way and that; and the next minute he
sprung up and dropped the bridle and stood! and the
horse a-going like a house afire too. He just
stood up there, a-sailing around as easy and comfortable
as if he warn’t ever drunk in his life and
then he begun to pull off his clothes and sling them.
He shed them so thick they kind of clogged up the
air, and altogether he shed seventeen suits.
And, then, there he was, slim and handsome, and dressed
the gaudiest and prettiest you ever saw, and he lit
into that horse with his whip and made him fairly
hum and finally skipped off, and made his
bow and danced off to the dressing-room, and everybody
just a-howling with pleasure and astonishment.
Then the ringmaster he see how he
had been fooled, and he was the sickest ringmaster
you ever see, I reckon. Why, it was one of his
own men! He had got up that joke all out of
his own head, and never let on to nobody. Well,
I felt sheepish enough to be took in so, but I wouldn’t
a been in that ringmaster’s place, not for a
thousand dollars. I don’t know; there
may be bullier circuses than what that one was, but
I never struck them yet. Anyways, it was plenty
good enough for me; and wherever I run across
it, it can have all of my custom every time.
Well, that night we had our show;
but there warn’t only about twelve people there just
enough to pay expenses. And they laughed all
the time, and that made the duke mad; and everybody
left, anyway, before the show was over, but one boy
which was asleep. So the duke said these Arkansaw
lunkheads couldn’t come up to Shakespeare; what
they wanted was low comedy and maybe something
ruther worse than low comedy, he reckoned. He
said he could size their style. So next morning
he got some big sheets of wrapping paper and some
black paint, and drawed off some handbills, and stuck
them up all over the village. The bills said:
At the court house! For
3 nights only!
The World-Renowned Tragedians
David Garrick the younger!
And Edmund Kean the elder!
Of the London and
In their Thrilling Tragedy of
the king’s CAMELEOPARD,
or the Royal Nonesuch ! ! !
Admission 50 cents.
Then at the bottom was the biggest line of all, which
Ladies and children not admitted.
“There,” says he, “if that line
don’t fetch them, I don’t know Arkansaw!”