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Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapters 11 to 15

Mark Twain

  Produced by David Widger


  By Mark Twain

  Part 3.


  "COME in," says the woman, and I did. She says: "Take a cheer."

  I done it. She looked me all over with her little shiny eyes, and says:

  "What might your name be?"

  "Sarah Williams."

  "Where 'bouts do you live? In this neighborhood?'

  "No'm. In Hookerville, seven mile below. I've walked all the way andI'm all tired out."

  "Hungry, too, I reckon. I'll find you something."

  "No'm, I ain't hungry. I was so hungry I had to stop two miles belowhere at a farm; so I ain't hungry no more. It's what makes me so late.My mother's down sick, and out of money and everything, and I come totell my uncle Abner Moore. He lives at the upper end of the town, shesays. I hain't ever been here before. Do you know him?"

  "No; but I don't know everybody yet. I haven't lived here quite twoweeks. It's a considerable ways to the upper end of the town. You betterstay here all night. Take off your bonnet."

  "No," I says; "I'll rest a while, I reckon, and go on. I ain't afearedof the dark."

  She said she wouldn't let me go by myself, but her husband would be in byand by, maybe in a hour and a half, and she'd send him along with me.Then she got to talking about her husband, and about her relations up theriver, and her relations down the river, and about how much better offthey used to was, and how they didn't know but they'd made a mistakecoming to our town, instead of letting well alone--and so on and so on,till I was afeard I had made a mistake coming to her to find out what wasgoing on in the town; but by and by she dropped on to pap and the murder,and then I was pretty willing to let her clatter right along. She toldabout me and Tom Sawyer finding the six thousand dollars (only she got itten) and all about pap and what a hard lot he was, and what a hard lot Iwas, and at last she got down to where I was murdered. I says:

  "Who done it? We've heard considerable about these goings on down inHookerville, but we don't know who 'twas that killed Huck Finn."

  "Well, I reckon there's a right smart chance of people HERE that'd liketo know who killed him. Some think old Finn done it himself."

  "No--is that so?"

  "Most everybody thought it at first. He'll never know how nigh he cometo getting lynched. But before night they changed around and judged itwas done by a runaway nigger named Jim."

  "Why HE--"

  I stopped. I reckoned I better keep still. She run on, and nevernoticed I had put in at all:

  "The nigger run off the very night Huck Finn was killed. So there's areward out for him--three hundred dollars. And there's a reward out forold Finn, too--two hundred dollars. You see, he come to town the morningafter the murder, and told about it, and was out with 'em on theferryboat hunt, and right away after he up and left. Before night theywanted to lynch him, but he was gone, you see. Well, next day they foundout the nigger was gone; they found out he hadn't ben seen sence teno'clock the night the murder was done. So then they put it on him, yousee; and while they was full of it, next day, back comes old Finn, andwent boo-hooing to Judge Thatcher to get money to hunt for the nigger allover Illinois with. The judge gave him some, and that evening he gotdrunk, and was around till after midnight with a couple of mightyhard-looking strangers, and then went off with them. Well, he hain'tcome back sence, and they ain't looking for him back till this thingblows over a little, for people thinks now that he killed his boy andfixed things so folks would think robbers done it, and then he'd getHuck's money without having to bother a long time with a lawsuit. Peopledo say he warn't any too good to do it. Oh, he's sly, I reckon. If hedon't come back for a year he'll be all right. You can't prove anythingon him, you know; everything will be quieted down then, and he'll walk inHuck's money as easy as nothing."

  "Yes, I reckon so, 'm. I don't see nothing in the way of it. Haseverybody quit thinking the nigger done it?"

  "Oh, no, not everybody. A good many thinks he done it. But they'll getthe nigger pretty soon now, and maybe they can scare it out of him."

  "Why, are they after him yet?"

  "Well, you're innocent, ain't you! Does three hundred dollars lay aroundevery day for people to pick up? Some folks think the nigger ain't farfrom here. I'm one of them--but I hain't talked it around. A few daysago I was talking with an old couple that lives next door in the logshanty, and they happened to say hardly anybody ever goes to that islandover yonder that they call Jackson's Island. Don't anybody live there?says I. No, nobody, says they. I didn't say any more, but I done somethinking. I was pretty near certain I'd seen smoke over there, about thehead of the island, a day or two before that, so I says to myself, likeas not that nigger's hiding over there; anyway, says I, it's worth thetrouble to give the place a hunt. I hain't seen any smoke sence, so Ireckon maybe he's gone, if it was him; but husband's going over to see--him and another man. He was gone up the river; but he got back to-day,and I told him as soon as he got here two hours ago."

  I had got so uneasy I couldn't set still. I had to do something with myhands; so I took up a needle off of the table and went to threading it.My hands shook, and I was making a bad job of it. When the woman stoppedtalking I looked up, and she was looking at me pretty curious and smilinga little. I put down the needle and thread, and let on to be interested--and I was, too--and says:

  "Three hundred dollars is a power of money. I wish my mother could getit. Is your husband going over there to-night?"

  "Oh, yes. He went up-town with the man I was telling you of, to get aboat and see if they could borrow another gun. They'll go over aftermidnight."

  "Couldn't they see better if they was to wait till daytime?"

  "Yes. And couldn't the nigger see better, too? After midnight he'lllikely be asleep, and they can slip around through the woods and hunt uphis camp fire all the better for the dark, if he's got one."

  "I didn't think of that."

  The woman kept looking at me pretty curious, and I didn't feel a bitcomfortable. Pretty soon she says"

  "What did you say your name was, honey?"

  "M--Mary Williams."

  Somehow it didn't seem to me that I said it was Mary before, so I didn'tlook up--seemed to me I said it was Sarah; so I felt sort of cornered,and was afeared maybe I was looking it, too. I wished the woman wouldsay something more; the longer she set still the uneasier I was. But nowshe says:

  "Honey, I thought you said it was Sarah when you first come in?"

  "Oh, yes'm, I did. Sarah Mary Williams. Sarah's my first name. Somecalls me Sarah, some calls me Mary."

  "Oh, that's the way of it?"


  I was feeling better then, but I wished I was out of there, anyway. Icouldn't look up yet.

  Well, the woman fell to talking about how hard times was, and how poorthey had to live, and how the rats was as free as if they owned theplace, and so forth and so on, and then I got easy again. She was rightabout the rats. You'd see one stick his nose out of a hole in the cornerevery little while. She said she had to have things handy to throw atthem when she was alone, or they wouldn't give her no peace. She showedme a bar of lead twisted up into a knot, and said she was a good shotwith it generly, but she'd wrenched her arm a day or two ago, and didn'tknow whether she could throw true now. But she watched for a chance, anddirectly banged away at a rat; but she missed him wide, and said "Ouch!"it hurt her arm so. Then she told me to try for the next one. I wantedto be getting away before the old man got back, but of course I didn'tlet on. I got the thing, and the first rat tha
t showed his nose I letdrive, and if he'd a stayed where he was he'd a been a tolerable sickrat. She said that was first-rate, and she reckoned I would hive thenext one. She went and got the lump of lead and fetched it back, andbrought along a hank of yarn which she wanted me to help her with. Iheld up my two hands and she put the hank over them, and went on talkingabout her and her husband's matters. But she broke off to say:

  "Keep your eye on the rats. You better have the lead in your lap,handy."

  So she dropped the lump into my lap just at that moment, and I clapped mylegs together on it and she went on talking. But only about a minute.Then she took off the hank and looked me straight in the face, and verypleasant, and says:

  "Come, now, what's your real name?"

  "Wh--what, mum?"

  "What's your real name? Is it Bill, or Tom, or Bob?--or what is it?"

  I reckon I shook like a leaf, and I didn't know hardly what to do. But Isays:

  "Please to don't poke fun at a poor girl like me, mum. If I'm in the wayhere, I'll--"

  "No, you won't. Set down and stay where you are. I ain't going to hurtyou, and I ain't going to tell on you, nuther. You just tell me yoursecret, and trust me. I'll keep it; and, what's more, I'll help you.So'll my old man if you want him to. You see, you're a runaway'prentice, that's all. It ain't anything. There ain't no harm in it.You've been treated bad, and you made up your mind to cut. Bless you,child, I wouldn't tell on you. Tell me all about it now, that's a goodboy."

  So I said it wouldn't be no use to try to play it any longer, and I wouldjust make a clean breast and tell her everything, but she musn't go backon her promise. Then I told her my father and mother was dead, and thelaw had bound me out to a mean old farmer in the country thirty mile backfrom the river, and he treated me so bad I couldn't stand it no longer;he went away to be gone a couple of days, and so I took my chance andstole some of his daughter's old clothes and cleared out, and I had beenthree nights coming the thirty miles. I traveled nights, and hiddaytimes and slept, and the bag of bread and meat I carried from homelasted me all the way, and I had a-plenty. I said I believed my uncleAbner Moore would take care of me, and so that was why I struck out forthis town of Goshen.

  "Goshen, child? This ain't Goshen. This is St. Petersburg. Goshen'sten mile further up the river. Who told you this was Goshen?"

  "Why, a man I met at daybreak this morning, just as I was going to turninto the woods for my regular sleep. He told me when the roads forked Imust take the right hand, and five mile would fetch me to Goshen."

  "He was drunk, I reckon. He told you just exactly wrong."

  "Well, he did act like he was drunk, but it ain't no matter now. I gotto be moving along. I'll fetch Goshen before daylight."

  "Hold on a minute. I'll put you up a snack to eat. You might want it."

  So she put me up a snack, and says:

  "Say, when a cow's laying down, which end of her gets up first? Answerup prompt now--don't stop to study over it. Which end gets up first?"

  "The hind end, mum."

  "Well, then, a horse?"

  "The for'rard end, mum."

  "Which side of a tree does the moss grow on?"

  "North side."

  "If fifteen cows is browsing on a hillside, how many of them eats withtheir heads pointed the same direction?"

  "The whole fifteen, mum."

  "Well, I reckon you HAVE lived in the country. I thought maybe you wastrying to hocus me again. What's your real name, now?"

  "George Peters, mum."

  "Well, try to remember it, George. Don't forget and tell me it'sElexander before you go, and then get out by saying it's George Elexanderwhen I catch you. And don't go about women in that old calico. You do agirl tolerable poor, but you might fool men, maybe. Bless you, child,when you set out to thread a needle don't hold the thread still and fetchthe needle up to it; hold the needle still and poke the thread at it;that's the way a woman most always does, but a man always does t'otherway. And when you throw at a rat or anything, hitch yourself up a tiptoeand fetch your hand up over your head as awkward as you can, and missyour rat about six or seven foot. Throw stiff-armed from the shoulder,like there was a pivot there for it to turn on, like a girl; not from thewrist and elbow, with your arm out to one side, like a boy. And, mindyou, when a girl tries to catch anything in her lap she throws her kneesapart; she don't clap them together, the way you did when you catched thelump of lead. Why, I spotted you for a boy when you was threading theneedle; and I contrived the other things just to make certain. Now trotalong to your uncle, Sarah Mary Williams George Elexander Peters, and ifyou get into trouble you send word to Mrs. Judith Loftus, which is me,and I'll do what I can to get you out of it. Keep the river road all theway, and next time you tramp take shoes and socks with you. The riverroad's a rocky one, and your feet'll be in a condition when you get toGoshen, I reckon."

  I went up the bank about fifty yards, and then I doubled on my tracks andslipped back to where my canoe was, a good piece below the house. Ijumped in, and was off in a hurry. I went up-stream far enough to makethe head of the island, and then started across. I took off thesun-bonnet, for I didn't want no blinders on then. When I was about themiddle I heard the clock begin to strike, so I stops and listens; thesound come faint over the water but clear--eleven. When I struck thehead of the island I never waited to blow, though I was most winded, butI shoved right into the timber where my old camp used to be, and starteda good fire there on a high and dry spot.

  Then I jumped in the canoe and dug out for our place, a mile and a halfbelow, as hard as I could go. I landed, and slopped through the timberand up the ridge and into the cavern. There Jim laid, sound asleep onthe ground. I roused him out and says:

  "Git up and hump yourself, Jim! There ain't a minute to lose. They'reafter us!"

  Jim never asked no questions, he never said a word; but the way he workedfor the next half an hour showed about how he was scared. By that timeeverything we had in the world was on our raft, and she was ready to beshoved out from the willow cove where she was hid. We put out the campfire at the cavern the first thing, and didn't show a candle outsideafter that.

  I took the canoe out from the shore a little piece, and took a look; butif there was a boat around I couldn't see it, for stars and shadows ain'tgood to see by. Then we got out the raft and slipped along down in theshade, past the foot of the island dead still--never saying a word.