Sim Gwynn was hungry, and that was
the greatest misfortune which could possibly happen
to him. He was growing rapidly, and consumed a
vast amount of food. I pitied him, as I did any
one who was kept on short allowance, and I hastened
to the house as quickly as I could, in order to relieve
what was positive suffering on his part. I intended
to obtain the food at home if possible; if not, to
purchase it at the store.
Captain Fishley had probably harnessed
the horse himself, for he and the squire had gone
away. I went into the house. No one was there
but Flora. Mrs. Fishley had gone, with her husband,
to sun herself in the smiles of the senator.
She never liked to be left at home when there was anything
going on. In the buttery I found plenty of cooked
provisions; for, whatever else may be said of the
Fishleys, they always had enough to eat, and that
which was good enough. “Short provender”
had never been one of my grievances, and I pitied
poor Sim all the more on this account.
Mrs. Fishley had evidently given the
distinguished visitor credit for a larger appetite
than he possessed after his debauch the night before,
and there was at least a pound of cold fried ham left.
I took a paper bag, and put into it half the meat
and as much cold corned beef as would have fed me
for two days, with a plentiful supply of biscuits,
crackers, and brown bread. I filled the bag full,
determined that Sim should have plenty to eat for
once in his life. Thus laden with enough to fill
the stomach that had “nothing in it,”
I returned to the swamp.
I need not say that the hungry runaway
was glad to see me. I pushed off the raft, and
poled it over to the fallen tree, where we should not
be disturbed by any possible passer-by. Sim looked
piteously sad and sorrowful; he glanced wistfully
at the paper bag, and seemed to begrudge every moment
of delay. At the tree, I took out the contents
of the bag, and spread them on the log. Sim’s
eyes dilated till they were like a pair of saucers,
and an expression of intense satisfaction lighted up
his dull features.
“Go in, Sim,” said I,
as soon as I had spread the table for him.
“Thank you, Buck! You are
a good fellow,” replied he, warmly. “I
knowed you’d help me, and that’s what
I wanted to see you for.”
I thought it would be cruel to interrupt
an operation so agreeable to him as that of eating,
and I asked no questions. He looked grateful,
and satisfactorily demonstrated that the proof of
the pudding is in the eating. Though I was amused
at his greediness, and enjoyed his appetite almost
as much as he did himself, I did not wish to embarrass
him; and, mounting the fallen tree, I walked upon
its trunk so far from him that it was not convenient
for him to speak to me. He had it all his own
way; for I think it is mean to watch a hungry boy
when he is eating, or to take note of the quantity
From my position I could see the stream,
and the pile of lumber over which I had moralized.
I could not help thinking that something must be done
with those refuse logs and boards. I cannot exactly
explain how it was, but that pile of senseless lumber
seemed, in some indefinite manner, to connect itself
with my affairs at the house. The thrashing I
had just received from my two masculine tyrants assured
me that I was no match for both of them. In a
word, it was strongly impressed upon my mind that
I could not stay in Torrentville much longer.
I had a taste for river scenery.
Every night, when I went for the mail, I used to see
the steamboat on the river; and I often thought I should
be “made” if I could make a trip in her.
Ever since my brother wrote that he should take us
down to New Orleans in the fall, I had looked forward
with intense joy to the voyage down the river.
In a smaller way my raft had afforded me a great deal
of pleasure on the waters of the swamp, though the
swift current did not permit me to embark on the stream.
Perhaps the decided course of Sim
Gwynn in leaving his disagreeable situation had some
influence upon my reflections. I had often thought
of doing the same thing myself, and only my poor sister
had prevented me from acting upon the suggestion.
I had some money now. Why could I not go, and
take her with me? But I had not enough to pay
our fares to New Orleans, and there was no other place
to which I could go. Besides, Captain Fishley
would not let us go. If we went by any public
conveyance, he could easily stop us.
“I have it!” I exclaimed,
in a tone so loud that Sim was disturbed in his interesting
He started from his seat, and looked
at me, with his mouth filled with food, his jaws suspending
their pleasing occupation.
“Did you speak to me, Buck?” he called.
“No,” I replied, walking towards him.
I looked at him, and realized that
he was beginning to weary of his task. Doubtless
he felt it to be a duty to eat all he could; but he
had already disposed of the major part of what I had
brought him, and was still struggling manfully with
“I heard you say, ‘I have
it,’” added Sim, jumbling the words through
the food in his mouth.
“Well, I have it.”
“So have I. That’s the
best meal of victuals I’ve had for a year.
I’m sorry I can’t eat no more.”
“You will get hungry again.”
“Shall I keep the rest of it?” he asked.
“Certainly; and when that is gone, I will bring
you some more.”
“Thank you, Buck. I knowed
you’d help me, and that’s what I wanted
to see you for.”
“I think I heard you say that
before. Now, Sim, what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know,” he replied, blankly.
“You have left Barkspear’s. Are you
going back again?”
“I don’t know. That’s what
I wanted to see you for.”
“Haven’t you any idea what you intend
“Not the leastest grain in the
world. That’s what I wanted to see you
for, you see.”
“But you wish to do something.”
“I don’t care. If
I get enough to eat, it don’t make no difference
to me. I shan’t get much to eat if I go
back to Barkspear’s.”
This seemed to be the great question
with him. He was willing to work hard for enough
to eat. He was not a dandy, and the clothes question
did not trouble him. It was only terrible to
“Sim, I’m going to run away myself,”
“What, from Fishley’s?” he demanded,
opening his eyes.
“Yes, from Fishley’s.”
“Don’t they give you enough to eat?”
“What do you want to run away
for, then?” asked he; and, if the provision
question was all right, he did not think there ought
to be trouble about any other matter.
“They don’t use me well, and they don’t
use my sister well.”
“But they give you enough to eat.”
“I would rather be starved than
treated like a dog. My brother Clarence is going
to take us away in the fall; but I don’t think
I can stand it till that time.”
I took off my coat, and showed him
one of the wales of the cowhide which my tyrants had
left upon my arm.
“But they give you all you want
to eat,” he replied, pulling away the rags from
his shoulder, and exhibiting some marks like my own.
“I don’t mind them things much if they
will only let me have something to eat.”
Sim was a puzzle to me. He was
all stomach. Blows were nothing; food was everything.
“Where have you been since yesterday?”
“Laying round, looking for something to eat.”
“Sim, we must build a raft,” I added.
“What for?” he inquired,
opening his eyes, as he always did when his muddy
brain seized an idea.
“To run away on. Do you see those logs
“I see them.”
“Well, Sim, we can build a big
raft, with a house on it,-a place to live
in,-where we can cook, and sleep, and eat.”
“Eat!” exclaimed he, opening
his mouth wide enough to take in a good-sized leg
“Of course, if we live on the
raft, we must have something to eat.”
“Can we get enough?” he asked, incredulously.
“You shall have all you want.”
“Goody!” shouted he.
“You must keep still about it, and not say a
word to any one.”
“I don’t see nobody.
I have to keep out of sight, or Barkspear will catch
me. I’m bound to him. I shan’t
“In a few days we will have
the house ready for you to live in; and I will bring
you all you need to eat.”
“That’s all I want.”
“You can work on the raft, and I will help you
all I can.”
“I will work from daylight till dark, if I only
get something to eat.”
I pushed the raft over to the pile
of lumber. I was quite excited as soon as the
idea had taken full possession of my mind. I was
not satisfied that the plan of leaving Torrentville
with Flora, on a raft, was practicable; but I could
have the fun of planning and building it; and really
this was all I expected to do. If worse came to
worst, I could get away from the town with my sister
better by the way of the swamp than by the road.
I explained to Sim more clearly what I intended to
do, and how to construct the raft. He was even
more enthusiastic than I was, for the scheme would
enable him to help me, and thus pay for the provisions
he consumed. He wanted to go to work at once;
but nothing could be done without an axe, some nails,
and other articles which I intended to procure.
I left Sim with the promise to see
him again in the afternoon, and returned to the house.
I was not attending school at all at this time, as
the winter term had closed, and the summer one had
not commenced, and I had nothing to do but work about
the place. I went into the house, and talked
with Flora. I told her what had happened-how
I had been whipped by both father and son. She
cried, and begged me not to disobey them any more.
“If they treat me decently,
I will do all they tell me, Flora,” I replied;
“but I will not be trodden upon.”
The conversation was interrupted by
the arrival of the wagon, and I went out, in order
that I might not be “tackled” before my
sister. Captain Fishley gave me an ugly look;
but I knew he would not say anything before his brother,
and he did not. He told me I might put
the horse up, and I did so. But I felt that the
day of settlement would come as soon as the squire
At dinner-time I was sometimes required
to stay in the store, and I was directed to do so
on this day. I selected a couple of stout clothes-lines,
a shingling hatchet, and put up two pounds of ten-penny
nails. I wrote down the articles on a piece of
paper, and carried it, with the five-dollar bill taken
from my roll, to the captain. He gave me the
change, without knowing who the customer was, and I
concealed the articles in the barn. When I had
eaten my dinner, and taken care of Darky and the pigs,
I started for the swamp again, with the goods I had