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THAT was all fixed. So then we went away and went to the rubbage-pile in the back yard, where they keep the old boots, and rags, and pieces of bottles, and wore-out tin things, and all such truck, and scratched around and found an old tin washpan, and stopped up the holes as well as we could, to bake the pie in, and took it down cellar and stole it full of flour and started for breakfast, and found a couple of shingle-nails that Tom said would be handy for a prisoner to scrabble his name and sorrows on the dungeon walls with, and dropped one of them in Aunt Sally’s apron-pocket which was hanging on a chair, and t’other we stuck in the band of Uncle Silas’s hat, which was on the bureau, because we heard the children say their pa and ma was going to the runaway nigger’s house this morning, and then went to breakfast, and Tom dropped the pewter spoon in Uncle Silas’s coat-pocket, and Aunt Sally wasn’t come yet, so we had to wait a little while. Everything was set. We left and went to the garbage pile in the back yard, where they keep the old boots, rags, pieces of bottles, worn out tins, and other junk. We searched around and found an old tin washpan, and plugged up the holes as best we could so that we could bake a pie in it. We took it down to the cellar and filled it with stolen flour. Then we in for breakfast. We found a couple of shingle nails that Tom said would be great for a prisoner to use to scribble his name and troubles onto the walls. We’d heard the children say that their pa and ma were going to the runaway n-----’s house this morning, so we hid the nails in some of Uncle Silas’s and Aunt Sally’s clothing. Tom dropped one of them in the pocket of Aunt Sally’s apron, which was hanging on a chair. We put another in the band of Uncle Silas’s hat, which was on the bureau. Tom also put the pewter spoon in Uncle Silas’s coat pocket. Then we waited until Aunt Sally returned.
And when she come she was hot and red and cross, and couldn’t hardly wait for the blessing; and then she went to sluicing out coffee with one hand and cracking the handiest child’s head with her thimble with the other, and says: When Aunt Sally returned she was pretty hot and irritable. She barely waited for us to pray before eating. Then she started serving coffee with one hand and poking the head of the child closest to her with a thimle in her other hand. She said:
“I’ve hunted high and I’ve hunted low, and it does beat all what HAS become of your other shirt.” “I’ve searched high and low, but I don’t know where your other shirt is.”
My heart fell down amongst my lungs and livers and things, and a hard piece of corn-crust started down my throat after it and got met on the road with a cough, and was shot across the table, and took one of the children in the eye and curled him up like a fishing-worm, and let a cry out of him the size of a warwhoop, and Tom he turned kinder blue around the gills, and it all amounted to a considerable state of things for about a quarter of a minute or as much as that, and I would a sold out for half price if there was a bidder. But after that we was all right again—it was the sudden surprise of it that knocked us so kind of cold. Uncle Silas he says: My heart dropped down into my lungs and liver and other organs and a hard piece of cornbread crust got caught in my throat. I coughed, and shot it across the table, hitting one of the children in the eye. The kid curled up like a worm on a fishhook and started wailing. Tom turned blue in the face. There was pandemonium for about fifteen seconds, and I would’ve given anything to be anywhere else. But after that things settled down again—it’d been the sudden shock of hearing about the shirt that had caught us off guard. Uncle Silas said:
“It’s most uncommon curious, I can’t understand it. I know perfectly well I took it OFF, because—” “It is pretty unusual—I can’t understand it. I clearly remember taking it OFF because….”
“Because you hain’t got but one ON. Just LISTEN at the man! I know you took it off, and know it by a better way than your wool-gethering memory, too, because it was on the clo’s-line yesterday—I see it there myself. But it’s gone, that’s the long and the short of it, and you’ll just have to change to a red flann’l one till I can get time to make a new one. And it ’ll be the third I’ve made in two years. It just keeps a body on the jump to keep you in shirts; and whatever you do manage to DO with ’m all is more’n I can make out. A body ’d think you WOULD learn to take some sort of care of ’em at your time of life.” “Because you don’t have it ON. Just listen to the man! I know you took it off, and I know it better than your slow memory. It was on the clothesline yesterday—I saw it there myself. But the fact is that it’s gone. You’ll just have to change into a red flannel shirt until I can get time to make you a new one. And it’ll be the third one I’ve made in two years. It takes all my energy to make sure you have enough shirts. And I sure can’t figure out what you manage to DO with them. You think you’d would have LEARNED to take care of them by this point in your life.”
“I know it, Sally, and I do try all I can. But it oughtn’t to be altogether my fault, because, you know, I don’t see them nor have nothing to do with them except when they’re on me; and I don’t believe I’ve ever lost one of them OFF of me.” “I know, Sally, and I do the best I can. But it shouldn’t be entirely my fault, you know. I don’t see them or have anything to do with them except when I’m wearing them. And I don’t think I’ve ever lost one while I was WEARING it.”
“Well, it ain’t YOUR fault if you haven’t, Silas; you’d a done it if you could, I reckon. And the shirt ain’t all that’s gone, nuther. Ther’s a spoon gone; and THAT ain’t all. There was ten, and now ther’s only nine. The calf got the shirt, I reckon, but the calf never took the spoon, THAT’S certain.” “Well, it isn’t YOUR fault, Silas—you wouldn’t have lost it if it was impossible to, I guess. The shirt’s not the only thing missing, either. There’s a spoon gone too—there were ten and now there are only nine. And THAT’s not all. The calf ate the shirt, I guess, but the calf didn’t take the spoon, THAT’s certain.”
“Why, what else is gone, Sally?” “What else is gone, Sally?”
“Ther’s six CANDLES gone—that’s what. The rats could a got the candles, and I reckon they did; I wonder they don’t walk off with the whole place, the way you’re always going to stop their holes and don’t do it; and if they warn’t fools they’d sleep in your hair, Silas—YOU’D never find it out; but you can’t lay the SPOON on the rats, and that I know.” “There are six candles missing, that’s what. The rats could have gotten the candles, I guess. It’s a wonder they don’t eat the whole place. You always say you’re going to plug up the rat holes, but you don’t. They could be sleeping in your hair, and YOU’D never know. But I’m sure you can’t blame the disappearance of the spoon on the rats.”