I HAD shut the door to. Then I turned around and there he was. I used
to be scared of him all the time, he tanned me so much. I reckoned I was
scared now, too; but in a minute I see I was mistaken--that is, after the
first jolt, as you may say, when my breath sort of hitched, he being so
unexpected; but right away after I see I warn't scared of him worth
He was most fifty, and he looked it. His hair was long and tangled and
greasy, and hung down, and you could see his eyes shining through like he
was behind vines. It was all black, no gray; so was his long, mixed-up
whiskers. There warn't no color in his face, where his face showed; it
was white; not like another man's white, but a white to make a body sick,
a white to make a body's flesh crawl--a tree-toad white, a fish-belly
white. As for his clothes--just rags, that was all. He had one ankle
resting on t'other knee; the boot on that foot was busted, and two of his
toes stuck through, and he worked them now and then. His hat was laying
on the floor--an old black slouch with the top caved in, like a lid.
I stood a-looking at him; he set there a-looking at me, with his chair
tilted back a little. I set the candle down. I noticed the window was
up; so he had clumb in by the shed. He kept a-looking me all over. By
and by he says:
"Starchy clothes--very. You think you're a good deal of a big-bug, DON'T
"Maybe I am, maybe I ain't," I says.
"Don't you give me none o' your lip," says he. "You've put on
considerable many frills since I been away. I'll take you down a peg
before I get done with you. You're educated, too, they say--can read and
write. You think you're better'n your father, now, don't you, because he
can't? I'LL take it out of you. Who told you you might meddle with such
hifalut'n foolishness, hey?--who told you you could?"
"The widow. She told me."
"The widow, hey?--and who told the widow she could put in her shovel
about a thing that ain't none of her business?"
"Nobody never told her."
"Well, I'll learn her how to meddle. And looky here--you drop that
school, you hear? I'll learn people to bring up a boy to put on airs
over his own father and let on to be better'n what HE is. You lemme
catch you fooling around that school again, you hear? Your mother
couldn't read, and she couldn't write, nuther, before she died. None of
the family couldn't before THEY died. I can't; and here you're
a-swelling yourself up like this. I ain't the man to stand it--you hear?
Say, lemme hear you read."
I took up a book and begun something about General Washington and the
wars. When I'd read about a half a minute, he fetched the book a whack
with his hand and knocked it across the house. He says:
"It's so. You can do it. I had my doubts when you told me. Now looky
here; you stop that putting on frills. I won't have it. I'll lay for
you, my smarty; and if I catch you about that school I'll tan you good.
First you know you'll get religion, too. I never see such a son."
He took up a little blue and yaller picture of some cows and a boy, and
"It's something they give me for learning my lessons good."
He tore it up, and says:
"I'll give you something better--I'll give you a cowhide."
He set there a-mumbling and a-growling a minute, and then he says:
"AIN'T you a sweet-scented dandy, though? A bed; and bedclothes; and a
look'n'-glass; and a piece of carpet on the floor--and your own father
got to sleep with the hogs in the tanyard. I never see such a son. I
bet I'll take some o' these frills out o' you before I'm done with you.
Why, there ain't no end to your airs--they say you're rich. Hey?--how's
"They lie--that's how."
"Looky here--mind how you talk to me; I'm a-standing about all I can
stand now--so don't gimme no sass. I've been in town two days, and I
hain't heard nothing but about you bein' rich. I heard about it away
down the river, too. That's why I come. You git me that money
to-morrow--I want it."
"I hain't got no money."
"It's a lie. Judge Thatcher's got it. You git it. I want it."
"I hain't got no money, I tell you. You ask Judge Thatcher; he'll tell
you the same."
"All right. I'll ask him; and I'll make him pungle, too, or I'll know
the reason why. Say, how much you got in your pocket? I want it."
"I hain't got only a dollar, and I want that to--"
"It don't make no difference what you want it for--you just shell it
He took it and bit it to see if it was good, and then he said he was
going down town to get some whisky; said he hadn't had a drink all day.
When he had got out on the shed he put his head in again, and cussed me
for putting on frills and trying to be better than him; and when I
reckoned he was gone he come back and put his head in again, and told me
to mind about that school, because he was going to lay for me and lick me
if I didn't drop that.
Next day he was drunk, and he went to Judge Thatcher's and bullyragged
him, and tried to make him give up the money; but he couldn't, and then
he swore he'd make the law force him.
The judge and the widow went to law to get the court to take me away from
him and let one of them be my guardian; but it was a new judge that had
just come, and he didn't know the old man; so he said courts mustn't
interfere and separate families if they could help it; said he'd druther
not take a child away from its father. So Judge Thatcher and the widow
had to quit on the business.
That pleased the old man till he couldn't rest. He said he'd cowhide me
till I was black and blue if I didn't raise some money for him. I
borrowed three dollars from Judge Thatcher, and pap took it and got
drunk, and went a-blowing around and cussing and whooping and carrying
on; and he kept it up all over town, with a tin pan, till most midnight;
then they jailed him, and next day they had him before court, and jailed
him again for a week. But he said HE was satisfied; said he was boss of
his son, and he'd make it warm for HIM.
When he got out the new judge said he was a-going to make a man of him.
So he took him to his own house, and dressed him up clean and nice, and
had him to breakfast and dinner and supper with the family, and was just
old pie to him, so to speak. And after supper he talked to him about
temperance and such things till the old man cried, and said he'd been a
fool, and fooled away his life; but now he was a-going to turn over a new
leaf and be a man nobody wouldn't be ashamed of, and he hoped the judge
would help him and not look down on him. The judge said he could hug him
for them words; so he cried, and his wife she cried again; pap said he'd
been a man that had always been misunderstood before, and the judge said
he believed it. The old man said that what a man wanted that was down
was sympathy, and the judge said it was so; so they cried again. And
when it was bedtime the old man rose up and held out his hand, and says:
"Look at it, gentlemen and ladies all; take a-hold of it; shake it.
There's a hand that was the hand of a hog; but it ain't so no more; it's
the hand of a man that's started in on a new life, and'll die before
he'll go back. You mark them words--don't forget I said them. It's a
clean hand now; shake it--don't be afeard."
So they shook it, one after the other, all around, and cried. The
judge's wife she kissed it. Then the old man he signed a pledge--made
his mark. The judge said it was the holiest time on record, or something
like that. Then they tucked the old man into a beautiful room, which was
the spare room, and in the night some time he got powerful thirsty and
clumb out on to the porch-roof and slid down a stanchion and traded his
new coat for a jug of forty-rod, and clumb back again and had a good old
time; and towards daylight he crawled out again, drunk as a fiddler, and
rolled off the porch and broke his left arm in two places, and was most
froze to death when somebody found him after sun-up. And when they come
to look at that spare room they had to take soundings before they could
The judge he felt kind of sore. He said he reckoned a body could reform
the old man with a shotgun, maybe, but he didn't know no other way.