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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapters 31 to 35

Mark Twain

  Produced by David Widger


  By Mark Twain

  Part 7.


  WE dasn't stop again at any town for days and days; kept right along downthe river. We was down south in the warm weather now, and a mighty longways from home. We begun to come to trees with Spanish moss on them,hanging down from the limbs like long, gray beards. It was the first Iever see it growing, and it made the woods look solemn and dismal. Sonow the frauds reckoned they was out of danger, and they begun to workthe villages again.

  First they done a lecture on temperance; but they didn't make enough forthem both to get drunk on. Then in another village they started adancing-school; but they didn't know no more how to dance than a kangaroodoes; so the first prance they made the general public jumped in andpranced them out of town. Another time they tried to go at yellocution;but they didn't yellocute long till the audience got up and give them asolid good cussing, and made them skip out. They tackled missionarying,and mesmerizing, and doctoring, and telling fortunes, and a little ofeverything; but they couldn't seem to have no luck. So at last they gotjust about dead broke, and laid around the raft as she floated along,thinking and thinking, and never saying nothing, by the half a day at atime, and dreadful blue and desperate.

  And at last they took a change and begun to lay their heads together inthe wigwam and talk low and confidential two or three hours at a time.Jim and me got uneasy. We didn't like the look of it. We judged theywas studying up some kind of worse deviltry than ever. We turned it overand over, and at last we made up our minds they was going to break intosomebody's house or store, or was going into the counterfeit-moneybusiness, or something. So then we was pretty scared, and made up anagreement that we wouldn't have nothing in the world to do with suchactions, and if we ever got the least show we would give them the coldshake and clear out and leave them behind. Well, early one morning we hidthe raft in a good, safe place about two mile below a little bit of ashabby village named Pikesville, and the king he went ashore and told usall to stay hid whilst he went up to town and smelt around to see ifanybody had got any wind of the Royal Nonesuch there yet. ("House to rob,you MEAN," says I to myself; "and when you get through robbing it you'llcome back here and wonder what has become of me and Jim and the raft--andyou'll have to take it out in wondering.") And he said if he warn't backby midday the duke and me would know it was all right, and we was to comealong.

  So we stayed where we was. The duke he fretted and sweated around, andwas in a mighty sour way. He scolded us for everything, and we couldn'tseem to do nothing right; he found fault with every little thing.Something was a-brewing, sure. I was good and glad when midday come andno king; we could have a change, anyway--and maybe a chance for THEchance on top of it. So me and the duke went up to the village, andhunted around there for the king, and by and by we found him in the backroom of a little low doggery, very tight, and a lot of loafersbullyragging him for sport, and he a-cussing and a-threatening with allhis might, and so tight he couldn't walk, and couldn't do nothing tothem. The duke he begun to abuse him for an old fool, and the king begunto sass back, and the minute they was fairly at it I lit out and shookthe reefs out of my hind legs, and spun down the river road like a deer,for I see our chance; and I made up my mind that it would be a long daybefore they ever see me and Jim again. I got down there all out ofbreath but loaded up with joy, and sung out:

  "Set her loose, Jim! we're all right now!"

  But there warn't no answer, and nobody come out of the wigwam. Jim wasgone! I set up a shout--and then another--and then another one; and runthis way and that in the woods, whooping and screeching; but it warn't nouse--old Jim was gone. Then I set down and cried; I couldn't help it.But I couldn't set still long. Pretty soon I went out on the road,trying to think what I better do, and I run across a boy walking, andasked him if he'd seen a strange nigger dressed so and so, and he says:


  "Whereabouts?" says I.

  "Down to Silas Phelps' place, two mile below here. He's a runawaynigger, and they've got him. Was you looking for him?"

  "You bet I ain't! I run across him in the woods about an hour or twoago, and he said if I hollered he'd cut my livers out--and told me to laydown and stay where I was; and I done it. Been there ever since; afeardto come out."

  "Well," he says, "you needn't be afeard no more, becuz they've got him.He run off f'm down South, som'ers."

  "It's a good job they got him."

  "Well, I RECKON! There's two hunderd dollars reward on him. It's likepicking up money out'n the road."

  "Yes, it is--and I could a had it if I'd been big enough; I see himFIRST. Who nailed him?"

  "It was an old fellow--a stranger--and he sold out his chance in him forforty dollars, becuz he's got to go up the river and can't wait. Thinko' that, now! You bet I'D wait, if it was seven year."

  "That's me, every time," says I. "But maybe his chance ain't worth nomore than that, if he'll sell it so cheap. Maybe there's something ain'tstraight about it."

  "But it IS, though--straight as a string. I see the handbill myself. Ittells all about him, to a dot--paints him like a picture, and tells theplantation he's frum, below NewrLEANS. No-sirree-BOB, they ain't notrouble 'bout THAT speculation, you bet you. Say, gimme a chaw tobacker,won't ye?"

  I didn't have none, so he left. I went to the raft, and set down in thewigwam to think. But I couldn't come to nothing. I thought till I woremy head sore, but I couldn't see no way out of the trouble. After allthis long journey, and after all we'd done for them scoundrels, here itwas all come to nothing, everything all busted up and ruined, becausethey could have the heart to serve Jim such a trick as that, and make hima slave again all his life, and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirtydollars.

  Once I said to myself it would be a thousand times better for Jim to be aslave at home where his family was, as long as he'd GOT to be a slave,and so I'd better write a letter to Tom Sawyer and tell him to tell MissWatson where he was. But I soon give up that notion for two things:she'd be mad and disgusted at his rascality and ungratefulness forleaving her, and so she'd sell him straight down the river again; and ifshe didn't, everybody naturally despises an ungrateful nigger, and they'dmake Jim feel it all the time, and so he'd feel ornery and disgraced.And then think of ME! It would get all around that Huck Finn helped anigger to get his freedom; and if I was ever to see anybody from thattown again I'd be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame. That'sjust the way: a person does a low-down thing, and then he don't want totake no consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide, it ain't nodisgrace. That was my fix exactly. The more I studied about this themore my conscience went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-downand ornery I got to feeling. And at last, when it hit me all of a suddenthat here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face andletting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from upthere in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman's nigger thathadn't ever done me no harm, and now was showing me there's One that'salways on the lookout, and ain't a-going to allow no such miserabledoings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracksI was so scared. Well, I tried the best I could to kinder soften it upsomehow for myself by saying I was brung up wicked, and so I warn't somuch to blame; but something inside of me kept saying, "There was theSunday-school, you could a gone to it; and if you'd a done it they'd alearnt you there that people that acts as I'd been acting about thatnigger goes to everlasting fire."

  It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if Icouldn't
try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So Ikneeled down. But the words wouldn't come. Why wouldn't they? Itwarn't no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from ME, neither. Iknowed very well why they wouldn't come. It was because my heart warn'tright; it was because I warn't square; it was because I was playingdouble. I was letting ON to give up sin, but away inside of me I washolding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth SAYI would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to thatnigger's owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it wasa lie, and He knowed it. You can't pray a lie--I found that out.

  So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn't know what to do.At last I had an idea; and I says, I'll go and write the letter--and thensee if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as afeather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a pieceof paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:

  Miss Watson, your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile belowPikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for thereward if you send.


  I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had everfelt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn't do itstraight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking--thinkinghow good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lostand going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over ourtrip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the dayand in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and wea-floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow Icouldn't seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only theother kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead ofcalling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when Icome back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, upthere where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call mehoney, and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and howgood he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by tellingthe men we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I wasthe best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the ONLY one he's gotnow; and then I happened to look around and see that paper.

  It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I wasa-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, andI knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and thensays to myself:

  "All right, then, I'll GO to hell"--and tore it up.

  It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let themstay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the wholething out of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again, whichwas in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for astarter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if Icould think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as Iwas in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.

  Then I set to thinking over how to get at it, and turned over someconsiderable many ways in my mind; and at last fixed up a plan thatsuited me. So then I took the bearings of a woody island that was downthe river a piece, and as soon as it was fairly dark I crept out with myraft and went for it, and hid it there, and then turned in. I slept thenight through, and got up before it was light, and had my breakfast, andput on my store clothes, and tied up some others and one thing or anotherin a bundle, and took the canoe and cleared for shore. I landed belowwhere I judged was Phelps's place, and hid my bundle in the woods, andthen filled up the canoe with water, and loaded rocks into her and sunkher where I could find her again when I wanted her, about a quarter of amile below a little steam sawmill that was on the bank.

  Then I struck up the road, and when I passed the mill I see a sign on it,"Phelps's Sawmill," and when I come to the farm-houses, two or threehundred yards further along, I kept my eyes peeled, but didn't see nobodyaround, though it was good daylight now. But I didn't mind, because Ididn't want to see nobody just yet--I only wanted to get the lay of theland. According to my plan, I was going to turn up there from thevillage, not from below. So I just took a look, and shoved along,straight for town. Well, the very first man I see when I got there wasthe duke. He was sticking up a bill for the Royal Nonesuch--three-nightperformance--like that other time. They had the cheek, them frauds! Iwas right on him before I could shirk. He looked astonished, and says:

  "Hel-LO! Where'd YOU come from?" Then he says, kind of glad and eager,"Where's the raft?--got her in a good place?"

  I says:

  "Why, that's just what I was going to ask your grace."

  Then he didn't look so joyful, and says:

  "What was your idea for asking ME?" he says.

  "Well," I says, "when I see the king in that doggery yesterday I says tomyself, we can't get him home for hours, till he's soberer; so I wenta-loafing around town to put in the time and wait. A man up and offeredme ten cents to help him pull a skiff over the river and back to fetch asheep, and so I went along; but when we was dragging him to the boat, andthe man left me a-holt of the rope and went behind him to shove himalong, he was too strong for me and jerked loose and run, and we afterhim. We didn't have no dog, and so we had to chase him all over thecountry till we tired him out. We never got him till dark; then wefetched him over, and I started down for the raft. When I got there andsee it was gone, I says to myself, 'They've got into trouble and had toleave; and they've took my nigger, which is the only nigger I've got inthe world, and now I'm in a strange country, and ain't got no property nomore, nor nothing, and no way to make my living;' so I set down andcried. I slept in the woods all night. But what DID become of the raft,then?--and Jim--poor Jim!"

  "Blamed if I know--that is, what's become of the raft. That old fool hadmade a trade and got forty dollars, and when we found him in the doggerythe loafers had matched half-dollars with him and got every cent but whathe'd spent for whisky; and when I got him home late last night and foundthe raft gone, we said, 'That little rascal has stole our raft and shookus, and run off down the river.'"

  "I wouldn't shake my NIGGER, would I?--the only nigger I had in theworld, and the only property."

  "We never thought of that. Fact is, I reckon we'd come to consider himOUR nigger; yes, we did consider him so--goodness knows we had troubleenough for him. So when we see the raft was gone and we flat broke,there warn't anything for it but to try the Royal Nonesuch another shake.And I've pegged along ever since, dry as a powder-horn. Where's that tencents? Give it here."

  I had considerable money, so I give him ten cents, but begged him tospend it for something to eat, and give me some, because it was all themoney I had, and I hadn't had nothing to eat since yesterday. He neversaid nothing. The next minute he whirls on me and says:

  "Do you reckon that nigger would blow on us? We'd skin him if he donethat!"

  "How can he blow? Hain't he run off?"

  "No! That old fool sold him, and never divided with me, and the money'sgone."

  "SOLD him?" I says, and begun to cry; "why, he was MY nigger, and thatwas my money. Where is he?--I want my nigger."

  "Well, you can't GET your nigger, that's all--so dry up your blubbering.Looky here--do you think YOU'D venture to blow on us? Blamed if I thinkI'd trust you. Why, if you WAS to blow on us--"

  He stopped, but I never see the duke look so ugly out of his eyes before.I went on a-whimpering, and says:

  "I don't want to blow on nobody; and I ain't got no time to blow, nohow.I got to turn out and find my nigger."

  He looked kinder bothered, and stood there with his bills fluttering onhis arm, thinking, and wrinkling up his forehead. At last he says:

  "I'll tell you something. We got to be here three days. If you'llpromise you won't blow, and won't let the nigger blow, I'll tell youwhere to find him."

  So I promised, and he says:

  "A farmer by the name of Silas Ph--" and then he stopped.
You see, hestarted to tell me the truth; but when he stopped that way, and begun tostudy and think again, I reckoned he was changing his mind. And so hewas. He wouldn't trust me; he wanted to make sure of having me out of theway the whole three days. So pretty soon he says:

  "The man that bought him is named Abram Foster--Abram G. Foster--and helives forty mile back here in the country, on the road to Lafayette."

  "All right," I says, "I can walk it in three days. And I'll start thisvery afternoon."

  "No you wont, you'll start NOW; and don't you lose any time about it,neither, nor do any gabbling by the way. Just keep a tight tongue inyour head and move right along, and then you won't get into trouble withUS, d'ye hear?"

  That was the order I wanted, and that was the one I played for. I wantedto be left free to work my plans.

  "So clear out," he says; "and you can tell Mr. Foster whatever you wantto. Maybe you can get him to believe that Jim IS your nigger--some idiotsdon't require documents--leastways I've heard there's such down Southhere. And when you tell him the handbill and the reward's bogus, maybehe'll believe you when you explain to him what the idea was for getting'em out. Go 'long now, and tell him anything you want to; but mind youdon't work your jaw any BETWEEN here and there."

  So I left, and struck for the back country. I didn't look around, but Ikinder felt like he was watching me. But I knowed I could tire him outat that. I went straight out in the country as much as a mile before Istopped; then I doubled back through the woods towards Phelps'. Ireckoned I better start in on my plan straight off without foolingaround, because I wanted to stop Jim's mouth till these fellows could getaway. I didn't want no trouble with their kind. I'd seen all I wantedto of them, and wanted to get entirely shut of them.