IN about a minute somebody spoke out of a window without putting his head out, and says:
"Be done, boys! Who's there?"
"George Jackson, sir."
"What do you want?"
"I don't want nothing, sir. I only want to go along by, but the dogs won't let me."
"What are you prowling around here this time of night for — hey?"
"I warn't prowling around, sir, I fell overboard off of the steamboat."
"Oh, you did, did you? Strike a light there, somebody. What did you say your name was?"
"George Jackson, sir. I'm only a boy."
"Look here, if you're telling the truth you needn't be afraid — nobody'll hurt you. But don't try to budge; stand right where you are. Rouse out Bob and Tom, some of you, and fetch the guns. George Jackson, is there anybody with you?"
"No, sir, nobody."
I heard the people stirring around in the house now, and see a light. The man sung out:
"Snatch that light away, Betsy, you old fool — ain't you got any sense? Put it on the floor behind the front door. Bob, if you and Tom are ready, take your places."
"Now, George Jackson, do you know the Shepherdsons?"
"No, sir; I never heard of them."
"Well, that may be so, and it mayn't. Now, all ready. Step forward, George Jackson. And mind, don't you hurry — come mighty slow. If there's anybody with you, let him keep back — if he shows himself he'll be shot. Come along now. Come slow; push the door open yourself — just enough to squeeze in, d' you hear?"
I didn't hurry; I couldn't if I'd a wanted to. I took one slow step at a time and there warn't a sound, only I thought I could hear my heart. The dogs were as still as the humans, but they followed a little behind me. When I got to the three log doorsteps I heard them unlocking and unbarring and unbolting. I put my hand on the door and pushed it a little and a little more till somebody said, "There, that's enough — put your head in." I done it, but I judged they would take it off.
The candle was on the floor, and there they all was, looking at me, and me at them, for about a quarter of a minute: Three big men with guns pointed at me, which made me wince, I tell you; the oldest, gray and about sixty, the other two thirty or more — all of them fine and handsome — and the sweetest old gray-headed lady, and back of her two young women which I couldn't see right well. The old gentleman says:
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