Read CHAPTER XIII of Cudjo's Cave , free online book, by J. T. Trowbridge, on ReadCentral.com.

THE OLD CLERGYMAN’S NIGHTGOWN HAS AN ADVENTURE.

Where, then, all this time, was Penn? He was himself almost as profoundly ignorant on that subject as anybody. For two or three hours he had been lost to himself no less than to his friends.

When he recovered his consciousness he found that he was lying on the ground, in the open air, in what seemed a barren field, covered with rocks and stunted shrubs.

How he came there he did not know. He had nothing on but his night-dress, a loan from the old clergyman, besides a blanket wrapped about him. His feet were bare, and he now perceived that they were painfully aching.

Almost too weak to lift a hand to his head, he yet tried to sit up and look around him. All was darkness; not a sign of human habitation, not a twinkling light was visible. The cold night wind swept over him, sighing drearily among the leafless bushes. Chilled, shivering, his temples throbbing, his brain sick and giddy, he sat down again upon the rocks, so ill and suffering that he could scarcely feel astonishment at his situation, or care whether he lived or died.

Where had he been during those hours of oblivion? He seemed to have slept, and to have had terrible dreams. Could he have remembered these dreams, it seemed to him that the whole mystery of his removal to this desolate spot would be explained. And he knew that it required but an effort of his will to remember them. But his soul was too weak: he could not make the effort.

To get upon his feet and walk was impossible. What, then, was left him but to perish here, alone, uncared for, unconsoled by a word of love from any human being? Death he would have welcomed as a relief from his sufferings. Yet when he thought of his home far away, in the peaceful community of Friends, of his parents and sisters now anxiously expecting his return, and again when he remembered the hospitable roof under which he lay, so tenderly nursed, but a little while ago, and thought of the blind old clergyman, of Virginia fresh as a rose, of kind-hearted Carl, and the affectionate old negro, he was stung with the desire to live, and he called feebly,

“Toby! Toby!”

Was his cry heard? Surely, there were footsteps on the rocks! And was not that a human form moving dimly between him and the sky? It passed on, and was lost in the shadows of the pines. Was it some animal, or only a phantom of his feverish brain?

“Toby!” he called again, exerting all his force. But only the wailing wind answered him, and, overcome by the effort, he sunk into a swoon. In that swoon it seemed to him that Toby had heard his voice, and that he came to him. Hands, gentle human hands, groped on him, felt the blanket, felt his bare feet, and his head, pillowed on stones. Then there seemed to be two Tobys, one good and the other evil, holding a strange consultation over him, which he heard as in a dream.

“We can’t leave him dying here!” said the good Toby.

“What dat to me, if him die, or whar him die?” said the other Toby. “Straight har!” He seemed to be feeling Penn’s locks, in order to ascertain to which race he belonged. “Dat’s nuff fur me! Lef him be, I tell ye, and come ’long!”

“Straight hair or curly, it’s all the same,” said Toby the Good. “Take hold here; we must save him!”

“Hyah-yah! ye don’t cotch dis niggah!” chuckled Toby the Bad, maliciously. “Nuff more ob his kind, in all conscience! Reckon we kin spar’ much as one! Hyah-yah!”

Something like a quarrel ensued, the result of which was, that Toby the Good finally prevailed upon Toby the Malevolent to assist him. Then Penn was dreamily aware of being lifted in the strong arms of this double individual, and borne away, over rocks, and among thickets, along the mountain side; until even this misty ray of consciousness deserted him, and he fell into a stupor like death.

And what was this he saw on awaking? Had he really died, and was this unearthly place a vestibule of the infernal regions? Days and nights of anguish, burning, and delirium, relieved at intervals by the same death-like stupor, had passed over him; and here he lay at length, exhausted, the terrible fever conquered, and his soul looking feebly forth and taking note of things.

And strange enough things appeared to him! He was in an apartment of prodigious and uncouth architecture, dimly lighted from one side by some opening invisible to him, and by a blazing fire in a little fireplace built on the broad stone floor. The fireplace was without chimney, but a steady draught of air, from the side where the opening seemed to be, swept the smoke away into sombre recesses, where it mingled with the shadows of the place, and was lost in gloom which even the glare of the flames failed to illumine.

Such a cavernous room Penn seemed to have seen in his dreams. The same irregular, rocky roof started up from the wall by his bed, and stretched away into vague and obscure distance. All was familiar to him, but all was somehow mixed up with frightful fantasies which had vanished with the fever that had so recently left him. The awful shapes, the struggles of demoniac men, the processions of strange and beautiful forms, which had visited him in his delirious visions, all these were airy nothings; but the cave was real.

Here he lay, on a rude bed constructed of four logs, forming the ends and sides, with canvas stretched across them, and secured with nails. Under him was a mattress of moss, over him a blanket like that which he remembered to have had wrapped about him last night in the field.

Last night! Poor Penn was deeply perplexed when he endeavored to remember whether his mysterious awaking in the open air occurred last night, or many nights ago. He moved his head feebly to look for Toby. Which Toby? for all through his sufferings the same two Tobys, one good and the other evil, who had taken him from the field, had appeared still to attend him, and he now more than half expected to see the faithful old negro duplicated, and waiting upon him with two bodies and four hands.

But neither the better nor even the worse half of that double being was near him now. Penn was alone, in that subterranean solitude. There burned the fire, the shadows flickered, the smoke floated away into the depths of the dark cavern, in such loneliness and silence as he had never experienced before. He would have thought himself in some grotto of the gnomes, or some awful cell of enchantment, whose supernatural fire never went out, and whose smoke rolled away into darkness the same perpetually, but for the sound of the crackling flames, and the sight of piles of wood on the floor, so strongly suggestive of human agency.

On one side was what appeared to be an artificial chamber built of stones, its door open towards the fire. Ranged about the cave, in something like regular order, were several massy blocks of different sizes, like the stools of a family of giants. But where were the giants?

Ah, here came Toby at last, or, at any rate, the twin of him. He approached from the side where the daylight shone, bearing an armful of sticks, and whistling a low tune. With his broad back turned towards Penn, he crouched before the fire, which he poked and scolded with malicious energy, his grotesque and gigantic shadow projected on the wall of the cave.

“Burn, ye debil! K-r-r-r! sputter! snap! git mad, why don’t ye?”

Then throwing himself back upon a heap of skins, with his heels at the fire, and his long arms swinging over his head, in a savage and picturesque attitude, he burst into a shout, like the cry of a wild beast. This he repeated several times, appearing to take delight in hearing the echoes resound through the cavern. Then he began to sing, keeping time with his feet, and pausing after each strain of his wild melody to hear it die away in the hollow depths of the cave.

“De glory ob de Lord, it am comin’, it am comin’,
De glory ob de Lord, let it come!
De angel ob de Lord, hear his trumpet, hear his trumpet,
De angel ob de Lord, he ar come!”

At the last words, “He ar come!” a shadow darkened the entrance, and Penn looked, almost expecting to see a literal fulfilment of the prophecy. A form of imposing stature appeared. It was that of a negro upwards of six feet in height, magnificently proportioned, straight as a pillar, and black as ebony. He wore a dress of skins, carried a gun in his hand, and had an opossum slung over his shoulder.

“Hush your noise!” he said to the singer, in a tone of authority. “Haven’t I told you not to wake him?”

“No fear o’ dat!” chuckled the other. “Him’s past dat! Ki! how fat he ar!” seizing the opossum, and beginning to dress him on the spot.

“Past waking! I tell you he’s asleep, and every thing depends on his waking up right. But you set up a howl that would disturb the dead!”

“Howl! dat’s what ye call singin’; me singin’, Pomp.”

“Well, keep your singing to yourself till he is able to stand it, you unfeeling, ungrateful fellow!”

“What dat ye call dis nigger?” cried the singer, jumping up in a passion, with his blood-stained knife in his hand. “Ongrateful! Say dat ar agin, will ye?”

“Yes, Cudjo, as often as you please,” said Pomp, calmly placing his gun in the artificial chamber. “You are an unfeeling, ungrateful fellow.”

He turned, and stood regarding him with a proud, lofty, compassionating smile. Cudjo’s anger cooled at once. Penn had already recognized in them the twin Tobys of his dreams. And what a contrast between the two! There was Toby the Good, otherwise called Pomp, dignified, erect, of noble features; while before him cringed and grimaced Toby the Malign, alias Cudjo, ugly, deformed, with immensely long arms, short bow legs resembling a parenthesis, a body like a frog’s, and the countenance of an ape.

“You know,” said Pomp, “you would have left this man to die there on the rocks, if it hadn’t been for me.”

“Gorry! why not?” said Cudjo. “What’s use ob all dis trouble on his ’count?”

“He has had trouble enough on our account,” said Pomp.

“On our ’count? Hiyah-yah!” laughed Cudjo, getting down on his knees over the opossum; “how ye make dat out, by?”

“Pay attention, Cudjo, while I tell ye,” said Pomp, stooping, and laying his finger on the deformed shoulder. Cudjo looked up, with his hands and knife still in the opossum’s flesh. “This is the way of it, as I heard last night from Pepperill himself, who got into trouble, as you know, by befriending old Pete after his licking. And you know, don’t you, how Pete came by his licking?”

“Bein’ out nights, totin’ our meal and taters to de mountains, dough I reckon de patrol didn’t know nuffin’ ’bout dat ar, or him wouldn’t got off so easy!” said Cudjo.

“Well, it was by befriending Pepperill, who had befriended Pete, who brings us meal and potatoes, that this man got the ill will of those villains. Do you understand?”

“Say ’em over agin, Pomp. How, now? Lef me see! Dat ar’s old Pete,” sticking up a finger to represent him. “Dat ar’s Pepperill,” sticking up a thumb. “Now, yonder is dis yer man, and here am we. Now, how is it, Pomp?”

Pomp repeated his statement, and Cudjo, pointing to his long, black finger when Pete was alluded to, and tapping his thumb when Pepperill was mentioned, succeeded in understanding that it was indirectly in consequence of kindness shown to himself that Penn had come to grief.

“Dat so, Pomp?” he said, seriously, in a changed voice. “Den ’pears like dar’s two white men me don’t wish dead as dis yer possom! Pepperills one, and him’s tudder.”

Pomp, having made this explanation, walked softly to the bedside. He had not before perceived that Penn, lying so still there, was awake. His features lighted up with intelligence and sympathy on making the discovery, and finding him free from feverish symptoms.

“Well, how are you getting on, sir?” he said, feeling Penn’s pulse, and seating himself on one of the giant’s stools near the bedstead.

“Where am I?” was Penn’s first anxious question.

“I fancy you don’t know very well where you are, sir,” said the negro, with a smile; “and you don’t know me either, do you?”

“I think you are my preserver are you not?”

“That’s a subject we will not talk about just now, sir; for you must keep very quiet.”

“I know,” said Penn, not to be put off so, “I owe my life to you!”

“Dat’s so! dat ar am a fac’!” cried Cudjo, approaching, and wrapping the warm opossum skin about his naked arm as he spoke. “Gorry! me sech a brute, me war for leavin’ ye dar in de lot. But, Pomp, him wouldn’t; so we toted you hyar, and him’s doctored you right smart eber sence. He ar a great doctor, Pomp ar! Yah!” And Cudjo laughed, showing two tremendous rows of ivory glittering from ear to ear; capering, swinging the opossum skin over his head, and, on the whole, looking far more like a demon of the cave than a human being.

“Go about your business, Cudjo!” said Pomp. “You mustn’t mind his freaks, sir,” turning to Penn. “You are a great deal better; and now, if you will only remain quiet and easy in your mind, there’s no doubt but you will get along.”

Many questions concerning himself and his friends came crowding to Penn’s lips; but the negro, with firm and gentle authority, silenced him.

“By and by, sir, I will tell you everything you wish to know. But you must rest now, while I see to making you a suitable broth.”

And nothing was left for Penn but to obey.