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Mark Twain > Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn > Chapter XXXI

Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

Chapter XXXI


WE dasn't stop again at any town for days and days; kept right along down
the river. We was down south in the warm weather now, and a mighty long
ways 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 I
ever see it growing, and it made the woods look solemn and dismal. So
now the frauds reckoned they was out of danger, and they begun to work
the villages again.

First they done a lecture on temperance; but they didn't make enough for
them both to get drunk on. Then in another village they started a
dancing-school; but they didn't know no more how to dance than a kangaroo
does; so the first prance they made the general public jumped in and
pranced 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 a
solid good cussing, and made them skip out. They tackled missionarying,
and mesmerizing, and doctoring, and telling fortunes, and a little of
everything; but they couldn't seem to have no luck. So at last they got
just 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 a
time, and dreadful blue and desperate.

And at last they took a change and begun to lay their heads together in
the 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 they
was studying up some kind of worse deviltry than ever. We turned it over
and over, and at last we made up our minds they was going to break into
somebody's house or store, or was going into the counterfeit-money
business, or something. So then we was pretty scared, and made up an
agreement that we wouldn't have nothing in the world to do with such
actions, and if we ever got the least show we would give them the cold
shake and clear out and leave them behind. Well, early one morning we hid
the raft in a good, safe place about two mile below a little bit of a
shabby village named Pikesville, and the king he went ashore and told us
all to stay hid whilst he went up to town and smelt around to see if
anybody 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'll
come back here and wonder what has become of me and Jim and the raft--and
you'll have to take it out in wondering.") And he said if he warn't back
by midday the duke and me would know it was all right, and we was to come
along.

So we stayed where we was. The duke he fretted and sweated around, and
was in a mighty sour way. He scolded us for everything, and we couldn't
seem to do nothing right; he found fault with every little thing.
Something was a-brewing, sure. I was good and glad when midday come and
no king; we could have a change, anyway--and maybe a chance for THE
chance on top of it. So me and the duke went up to the village, and
hunted around there for the king, and by and by we found him in the back
room of a little low doggery, very tight, and a lot of loafers
bullyragging him for sport, and he a-cussing and a-threatening with all
his might, and so tight he couldn't walk, and couldn't do nothing to
them. The duke he begun to abuse him for an old fool, and the king begun
to sass back, and the minute they was fairly at it I lit out and shook
the 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 day
before they ever see me and Jim again. I got down there all out of
breath 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 was
gone! I set up a shout--and then another--and then another one; and run
this way and that in the woods, whooping and screeching; but it warn't no
use--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, and
asked him if he'd seen a strange nigger dressed so and so, and he says:

"Yes."

"Whereabouts?" says I.

"Down to Silas Phelps' place, two mile below here. He's a runaway
nigger, 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 two
ago, and he said if I hollered he'd cut my livers out--and told me to lay
down and stay where I was; and I done it. Been there ever since; afeard
to 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 like
picking up money out'n the road."

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

"It was an old fellow--a stranger--and he sold out his chance in him for
forty dollars, becuz he's got to go up the river and can't wait. Think
o' 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 no
more than that, if he'll sell it so cheap. Maybe there's something ain't
straight about it."

"But it IS, though--straight as a string. I see the handbill myself. It
tells all about him, to a dot--paints him like a picture, and tells the
plantation he's frum, below NewrLEANS. No-sirree-BOB, they ain't no
trouble '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 the
wigwam to think. But I couldn't come to nothing. I thought till I wore
my head sore, but I couldn't see no way out of the trouble. After all
this long journey, and after all we'd done for them scoundrels, here it
was all come to nothing, everything all busted up and ruined, because
they could have the heart to serve Jim such a trick as that, and make him
a slave again all his life, and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirty
dollars.

Once I said to myself it would be a thousand times better for Jim to be a
slave 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 Miss
Watson where he was. But I soon give up that notion for two things:
she'd be mad and disgusted at his rascality and ungratefulness for
leaving her, and so she'd sell him straight down the river again; and if
she didn't, everybody naturally despises an ungrateful nigger, and they'd
make 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 a
nigger to get his freedom; and if I was ever to see anybody from that
town again I'd be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame. That's
just the way: a person does a low-down thing, and then he don't want to
take no consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide, it ain't no
disgrace. That was my fix exactly. The more I studied about this the
more my conscience went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-down
and ornery I got to feeling. And at last, when it hit me all of a sudden
that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and
letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up
there in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman's nigger that
hadn't ever done me no harm, and now was showing me there's One that's
always on the lookout, and ain't a-going to allow no such miserable
doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks
I was so scared. Well, I tried the best I could to kinder soften it up
somehow for myself by saying I was brung up wicked, and so I warn't so
much to blame; but something inside of me kept saying, "There was the
Sunday-school, you could a gone to it; and if you'd a done it they'd a
learnt you there that people that acts as I'd been acting about that
nigger goes to everlasting fire."

It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I
couldn't try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I
kneeled down. But the words wouldn't come. Why wouldn't they? It
warn't no use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from ME, neither. I
knowed very well why they wouldn't come. It was because my heart warn't
right; it was because I warn't square; it was because I was playing
double. I was letting ON to give up sin, but away inside of me I was
holding on to the biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth SAY
I would do the right thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that
nigger's owner and tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was
a 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 then
see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a
feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece
of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:

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

HUCK FINN.

I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever
felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn't do it
straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking--thinking
how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost
and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our
trip down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day
and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-
floating along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn't
seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other
kind. I'd see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling
me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come
back out of the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there
where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey,
and pet me and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he
always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men
we had small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best
friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the ONLY one he's got now; 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 was a-
trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I
knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says
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 them
stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole
thing out of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again, which
was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for a
starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I
could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I
was 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 some
considerable many ways in my mind; and at last fixed up a plan that
suited me. So then I took the bearings of a woody island that was down
the river a piece, and as soon as it was fairly dark I crept out with my
raft and went for it, and hid it there, and then turned in. I slept the
night through, and got up before it was light, and had my breakfast, and
put on my store clothes, and tied up some others and one thing or another
in a bundle, and took the canoe and cleared for shore. I landed below
where I judged was Phelps's place, and hid my bundle in the woods, and
then filled up the canoe with water, and loaded rocks into her and sunk
her where I could find her again when I wanted her, about a quarter of a
mile 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 three
hundred yards further along, I kept my eyes peeled, but didn't see nobody
around, though it was good daylight now. But I didn't mind, because I
didn't want to see nobody just yet--I only wanted to get the lay of the
land. According to my plan, I was going to turn up there from the
village, 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 was
the duke. He was sticking up a bill for the Royal Nonesuch--three-night
performance--like that other time. They had the cheek, them frauds! I
was 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 to
myself, we can't get him home for hours, till he's soberer; so I went a-
loafing around town to put in the time and wait. A man up and offered me
ten cents to help him pull a skiff over the river and back to fetch a
sheep, and so I went along; but when we was dragging him to the boat, and
the man left me a-holt of the rope and went behind him to shove him
along, he was too strong for me and jerked loose and run, and we after
him. We didn't have no dog, and so we had to chase him all over the
country till we tired him out. We never got him till dark; then we
fetched him over, and I started down for the raft. When I got there and
see it was gone, I says to myself, 'They've got into trouble and had to
leave; and they've took my nigger, which is the only nigger I've got in
the world, and now I'm in a strange country, and ain't got no property no
more, nor nothing, and no way to make my living;' so I set down and
cried. 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 had
made a trade and got forty dollars, and when we found him in the doggery
the loafers had matched half-dollars with him and got every cent but what
he'd spent for whisky; and when I got him home late last night and found
the raft gone, we said, 'That little rascal has stole our raft and shook
us, and run off down the river.'"

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

"We never thought of that. Fact is, I reckon we'd come to consider him
OUR nigger; yes, we did consider him so--goodness knows we had trouble
enough 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 ten
cents? Give it here."

I had considerable money, so I give him ten cents, but begged him to
spend it for something to eat, and give me some, because it was all the
money I had, and I hadn't had nothing to eat since yesterday. He never
said 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 done
that!"

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

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

"SOLD him?" I says, and begun to cry; "why, he was MY nigger, and that
was 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 think
I'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 on
his 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'll
promise you won't blow, and won't let the nigger blow, I'll tell you
where to find him."

So I promised, and he says:

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

"The man that bought him is named Abram Foster--Abram G. Foster--and he
lives 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 this
very 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 in
your head and move right along, and then you won't get into trouble with
US, d'ye hear?"

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

"So clear out," he says; "and you can tell Mr. Foster whatever you want
to. Maybe you can get him to believe that Jim IS your nigger--some idiots
don't require documents--leastways I've heard there's such down South
here. And when you tell him the handbill and the reward's bogus, maybe
he'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 you
don't work your jaw any BETWEEN here and there."

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

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