THEY swarmed up towards Sherburn's house, awhooping
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
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
outgaze 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
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
"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
"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 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 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
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
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!
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
LADIES AND CHILDREN NOT ADMITTED.
"There," says he, "if that line don't
fetch them, I don't know Arkansaw!"