Sherburn. He was standing perfectly still in the street, and had a
pistol raised in his right hand—not aiming it, but holding it out
with the barrel tilted up towards the sky. The same second I see a
young girl coming on the run, and two men with her. Boggs and
the men turned round to see who called him, and when they see
the pistol the men jumped to one side, and the pistol-barrel come
down slow and steady to a level—both barrels cocked. Boggs
throws up both of his hands and says, “O Lord, don’t shoot!” Bang!
goes the first shot, and he staggers back, clawing at the air—bang!
goes the second one, and he tumbles backwards on to the ground,
heavy and solid, with his arms spread out. That young girl
screamed out and comes rushing, and down she throws herself on
her father, crying, and saying, “Oh, he’s killed him, he’s killed him!”
The crowd closed up around them, and shouldered and jammed
one another, with their necks stretched, trying to see, and people
on the inside trying to shove them back and shouting, “Back, back!
give him air, give him air!”
Colonel Sherburn he tossed his pistol on to the ground, and turned
around on his heels and walked off.
They took Boggs to a little drug store, the crowd pressing around
just the same, and the whole town following, and I rushed and got a
good place at the window, where I was close to him and could see in.
They laid him on the ﬂoor and put one large Bible under his head,
and opened another one and spread it on his breast; but they tore
open his shirt ﬁrst, and I seen where one of the bullets went in. He
made about a dozen long gasps, his breast lifting the Bible up when
he drawed in his breath, and letting it down again when he breathed
it out—and after that he laid still; he was dead. Then they pulled his
daughter away from him, screaming and crying, and took her off.
She was about sixteen, and very sweet and gentle looking, but awful
pale and scared.
Well, pretty soon the whole town was there, squirming and scroug-
ing and pushing and shoving to get at the window and have a look,
but people that had the places wouldn’t give them up, and folks
behind them was saying all the time, “Say, now, you’ve looked
enough, you fellows; ‘tain’t right and ‘tain’t fair for you to stay thar all
the time, and never give nobody a chance; other folks has their rights
as well as you.”
There was considerable jawing back, so I slid out, thinking maybe
there was going to be trouble. The streets was full, and everybody was
excited. Everybody that seen the shooting was telling how it hap-
pened, and there was a big crowd packed around each one of these
fellows, stretching their necks and listening. One long, lanky man,
with long hair and a big white fur stovepipe hat on the back of his
head, and a crooked-handled cane, marked out the places on the
ground where Boggs stood and where Sherburn stood, and the peo-
ple following him around from one place to t’other and watching
everything he done, and bobbing their heads to show they under-
stood, and stooping a little and resting their hands on their thighs to
watch him mark the places on the ground with his cane; and then he
stood up straight and stiff where Sherburn had stood, frowning and
having his hat-brim down over his eyes, and sung out, “Boggs!” and
then fetched his cane down slow to a level, and says “Bang!” stag-
gered backwards, says “Bang!” again, and fell down ﬂat on his back.
The people that had seen the thing said he done it perfect; said it was
just exactly the way it all happened. Then as much as a dozen people
got out their bottles and treated him.
Well, by and by somebody said Sherburn ought to be lynched. In
about a minute everybody was saying it; so away they went, mad and
yelling, and snatching down every clothes-line they come to to do the
hey 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
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 eat-
ing 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 him.
“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 newspa-
pers 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 blowing.
“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 leavve—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 watch-
man went by, and then dived in under the tent. I had my twenty-dol-
lar 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 them.
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 loveli-
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 them-
selves! 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 distur-
bance, 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-sail-
ing 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 would-
n’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, any-
way, 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 some-
thing 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!
EDMUND KEAN THE ELDER!
Of the London and Continental
In their Thrilling Tragedy of
THE KING’S CAMELEOPARD,
THE ROYAL NONESUCH ! ! !
Admission 50 cents.
Then at the bottom was the biggest line of all, which said:
LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED.
“There,” says he, “if that line don’t fetch them, I don’t know Arkansaw!”
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested