Well, the days went along, and the river went down between its banks
again; and about the first thing we done was to bait one of the big hooks
with a skinned rabbit and set it and catch a catfish that was as big as a
man, being six foot two inches long, and weighed over two hundred pounds. We
couldn’t handle him, of course; he would a flung us into Illinois. We just
set there and watched him rip and tear around till he drownded. We found a
brass button in his stomach and a round ball, and lots of rubbage. We split
the ball open with the hatchet, and there was a spool in it. Jim said he’d
had it there a long time, to coat it over so and make a ball of it. It was
as big a fish as was ever catched in the Mississippi, I reckon. Jim said he
hadn’t ever seen a bigger one. He would a been worth a good deal over at the
village. They peddle out such a fish as that by the pound in the
market-house there; everybody buys some of him; his meat’s as white as snow
and makes a good fry.
Well, the days passed and the river receded to normal levels again. The
first thing we did was to bait one of the big fishhooks with a skinned
rabbit and catch a catfish as big as a man. It was six feet two inches long
and weighed over 200 pounds. We couldn’t handle him, of course—he would have
tossed us all the way to Illinois. Instead, we just sat there and watched
him thrash about until he died. We cut him open and found a brass button and
a round ball, along with other junk, in his stomach. We split the ball open
with the hatchet and found a spool of thread in it. Jim said the fish must
have had the spool in his stomach for a long time for it to get coated and
form a ball like that. Jim said he’d never seen a bigger fish, and I figured
it was the biggest fish that had ever been caught in the Mississippi River.
It would have been worth a lot of money in the village, where they sell fish
by the pound in the market house. Everyone would buy some it because his
meat was as white as snow and fried up pretty well.
Next morning I said it was getting slow and dull, and I wanted to get a
stirring up some way. I said I reckoned I would slip over the river and find
out what was going on. Jim liked that notion; but he said I must go in the
dark and look sharp. Then he studied it over and said, couldn’t I put on
some of them old things and dress up like a girl? That was a good notion,
too. So we shortened up one of the calico gowns, and I turned up my
trouser-legs to my knees and got into it. Jim hitched it behind with the
hooks, and it was a fair fit. I put on the sun-bonnet and tied it under my
chin, and then for a body to look in and see my face was like looking down a
joint of stove-pipe. Jim said nobody would know me, even in the daytime,
hardly. I practiced around all day to get the hang of the things, and by and
by I could do pretty well in them, only Jim said I didn’t walk like a girl;
and he said I must quit pulling up my gown to get at my britches-pocket. I
took notice, and done better.
The next morning I said things were getting pretty boring and that I
wanted to get up and do something. I said I figured I’d cross the river to
see what was going on. Jim liked that idea, but said I should go in the dark
and be careful. He thought about it for awhile and suggested I dress up like
a girl by putting on some of the old clothes we’d found. That was a pretty
good idea. We adjusted the length of one of the calico dresses, and I rolled
up my pant legs and put it on. Jim tied me up in the back with the hooks. It
fit pretty well. I also put on the sunbonnet and tied it under my chin,
which made it seem like my face was down in a stovepipe. Jim said people
wouldn’t recognize even if it was daytime. I practiced pretending to be a
girl all day to get the hang of it. Eventually, I started doing pretty well.
Jim said I didn’t walk like a girl, though, and said I had to stop pulling
up my dress to reach into my pants pocket. I took his advice and started
I started up the Illinois shore in the canoe just after dark.
After dark, I took the canoe over to the Illinois shore.
I started across to the town from a little below the ferry-landing, and
the drift of the current fetched me in at the bottom of the town. I tied up
and started along the bank. There was a light burning in a little shanty
that hadn’t been lived in for a long time, and I wondered who had took up
quarters there. I slipped up and peeped in at the window. There was a woman
about forty year old in there knitting by a candle that was on a pine table.
I didn’t know her face; she was a stranger, for you couldn’t start a face in
that town that I didn’t know. Now this was lucky, because I was weakening; I
was getting afraid I had come; people might know my voice and find me out.
But if this woman had been in such a little town two days she could tell me
all I wanted to know; so I knocked at the door, and made up my mind I
wouldn’t forget I was a girl.
I headed toward the town that was just below the ferry landing, and the
current took me right to the southern tip. I tied up the canoe, got out, and
head up the riverbank. There was a light burning in a little cabin that had
been abandoned for some time, and I wondered who had started living there. I
snuck up and peered in the window. Inside was a woman about forty years old
inside knitting and a pine table with a candle on it. I didn’t recognize
her—she was a stranger, since there wasn’t a person in that town that I
didn’t know. This was lucky for me because I was starting to lose my nerve.
I was starting to regret having come, since people might recognize my voice
and figure out who I was. But this woman could tell me everything I wanted
to know, even if she’d only been in our tiny town a couple days. So, I told
myself not to forget that I was a girl, and then I knocked on the