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Mark Twain > Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn > Chapter VIII

Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn

Chapter VIII


THE sun was up so high when I waked that I judged it was after eight
o'clock. I laid there in the grass and the cool shade thinking about
things, and feeling rested and ruther comfortable and satisfied. I could
see the sun out at one or two holes, but mostly it was big trees all
about, and gloomy in there amongst them. There was freckled places on
the ground where the light sifted down through the leaves, and the
freckled places swapped about a little, showing there was a little breeze
up there. A couple of squirrels set on a limb and jabbered at me very
friendly.

I was powerful lazy and comfortable--didn't want to get up and cook
breakfast. Well, I was dozing off again when I thinks I hears a deep
sound of "boom!" away up the river. I rouses up, and rests on my elbow
and listens; pretty soon I hears it again. I hopped up, and went and
looked out at a hole in the leaves, and I see a bunch of smoke laying on
the water a long ways up--about abreast the ferry. And there was the
ferryboat full of people floating along down. I knowed what was the
matter now. "Boom!" I see the white smoke squirt out of the ferryboat's
side. You see, they was firing cannon over the water, trying to make my
carcass come to the top.

I was pretty hungry, but it warn't going to do for me to start a fire,
because they might see the smoke. So I set there and watched the cannon-
smoke and listened to the boom. The river was a mile wide there, and it
always looks pretty on a summer morning--so I was having a good enough
time seeing them hunt for my remainders if I only had a bite to eat.
Well, then I happened to think how they always put quicksilver in loaves
of bread and float them off, because they always go right to the drownded
carcass and stop there. So, says I, I'll keep a lookout, and if any of
them's floating around after me I'll give them a show. I changed to the
Illinois edge of the island to see what luck I could have, and I warn't
disappointed. A big double loaf come along, and I most got it with a
long stick, but my foot slipped and she floated out further. Of course I
was where the current set in the closest to the shore--I knowed enough
for that. But by and by along comes another one, and this time I won. I
took out the plug and shook out the little dab of quicksilver, and set my
teeth in. It was "baker's bread"--what the quality eat; none of your
low-down corn-pone.

I got a good place amongst the leaves, and set there on a log, munching
the bread and watching the ferry-boat, and very well satisfied. And then
something struck me. I says, now I reckon the widow or the parson or
somebody prayed that this bread would find me, and here it has gone and
done it. So there ain't no doubt but there is something in that thing--
that is, there's something in it when a body like the widow or the parson
prays, but it don't work for me, and I reckon it don't work for only just
the right kind.

I lit a pipe and had a good long smoke, and went on watching. The
ferryboat was floating with the current, and I allowed I'd have a chance
to see who was aboard when she come along, because she would come in
close, where the bread did. When she'd got pretty well along down
towards me, I put out my pipe and went to where I fished out the bread,
and laid down behind a log on the bank in a little open place. Where the
log forked I could peep through.

By and by she come along, and she drifted in so close that they could a
run out a plank and walked ashore. Most everybody was on the boat. Pap,
and Judge Thatcher, and Bessie Thatcher, and Jo Harper, and Tom Sawyer,
and his old Aunt Polly, and Sid and Mary, and plenty more. Everybody was
talking about the murder, but the captain broke in and says:

"Look sharp, now; the current sets in the closest here, and maybe he's
washed ashore and got tangled amongst the brush at the water's edge. I
hope so, anyway."

"I didn't hope so. They all crowded up and leaned over the rails, nearly
in my face, and kept still, watching with all their might. I could see
them first-rate, but they couldn't see me. Then the captain sung out:

"Stand away!" and the cannon let off such a blast right before me that it
made me deef with the noise and pretty near blind with the smoke, and I
judged I was gone. If they'd a had some bullets in, I reckon they'd a
got the corpse they was after. Well, I see I warn't hurt, thanks to
goodness. The boat floated on and went out of sight around the shoulder
of the island. I could hear the booming now and then, further and
further off, and by and by, after an hour, I didn't hear it no more. The
island was three mile long. I judged they had got to the foot, and was
giving it up. But they didn't yet a while. They turned around the foot
of the island and started up the channel on the Missouri side, under
steam, and booming once in a while as they went. I crossed over to that
side and watched them. When they got abreast the head of the island they
quit shooting and dropped over to the Missouri shore and went home to the
town.

I knowed I was all right now. Nobody else would come a-hunting after me.
I got my traps out of the canoe and made me a nice camp in the thick
woods. I made a kind of a tent out of my blankets to put my things under
so the rain couldn't get at them. I catched a catfish and haggled him
open with my saw, and towards sundown I started my camp fire and had
supper. Then I set out a line to catch some fish for breakfast.

When it was dark I set by my camp fire smoking, and feeling pretty well
satisfied; but by and by it got sort of lonesome, and so I went and set
on the bank and listened to the current swashing along, and counted the
stars and drift logs and rafts that come down, and then went to bed;
there ain't no better way to put in time when you are lonesome; you can't
stay so, you soon get over it.

And so for three days and nights. No difference--just the same thing.
But the next day I went exploring around down through the island. I was
boss of it; it all belonged to me, so to say, and I wanted to know all
about it; but mainly I wanted to put in the time. I found plenty
strawberries, ripe and prime; and green summer grapes, and green
razberries; and the green blackberries was just beginning to show. They
would all come handy by and by, I judged.

Well, I went fooling along in the deep woods till I judged I warn't far
from the foot of the island. I had my gun along, but I hadn't shot
nothing; it was for protection; thought I would kill some game nigh home.
About this time I mighty near stepped on a good-sized snake, and it went
sliding off through the grass and flowers, and I after it, trying to get
a shot at it. I clipped along, and all of a sudden I bounded right on to
the ashes of a camp fire that was still smoking.

My heart jumped up amongst my lungs. I never waited for to look further,
but uncocked my gun and went sneaking back on my tiptoes as fast as ever
I could. Every now and then I stopped a second amongst the thick leaves
and listened, but my breath come so hard I couldn't hear nothing else. I
slunk along another piece further, then listened again; and so on, and so
on. If I see a stump, I took it for a man; if I trod on a stick and
broke it, it made me feel like a person had cut one of my breaths in two
and I only got half, and the short half, too.

When I got to camp I warn't feeling very brash, there warn't much sand in
my craw; but I says, this ain't no time to be fooling around. So I got
all my traps into my canoe again so as to have them out of sight, and I
put out the fire and scattered the ashes around to look like an old last
year's camp, and then clumb a tree.

I reckon I was up in the tree two hours; but I didn't see nothing, I
didn't hear nothing--I only THOUGHT I heard and seen as much as a
thousand things. Well, I couldn't stay up there forever; so at last I
got down, but I kept in the thick woods and on the lookout all the time.
All I could get to eat was berries and what was left over from breakfast.

By the time it was night I was pretty hungry. So when it was good and
dark I slid out from shore before moonrise and paddled over to the
Illinois bank--about a quarter of a mile. I went out in the woods and
cooked a supper, and I had about made up my mind I would stay there all
night when I hear a PLUNKETY-PLUNK, PLUNKETY-PLUNK, and says to myself,
horses coming; and next I hear people's voices. I got everything into
the canoe as quick as I could, and then went creeping through the woods
to see what I could find out. I hadn't got far when I hear a man say:

"We better camp here if we can find a good place; the horses is about
beat out. Let's look around."

I didn't wait, but shoved out and paddled away easy. I tied up in the
old place, and reckoned I would sleep in the canoe.

I didn't sleep much. I couldn't, somehow, for thinking. And every time
I waked up I thought somebody had me by the neck. So the sleep didn't do
me no good. By and by I says to myself, I can't live this way; I'm a-
going to find out who it is that's here on the island with me; I'll find
it out or bust. Well, I felt better right off.

So I took my paddle and slid out from shore just a step or two, and then
let the canoe drop along down amongst the shadows. The moon was shining,
and outside of the shadows it made it most as light as day. I poked
along well on to an hour, everything still as rocks and sound asleep.
Well, by this time I was most down to the foot of the island. A little
ripply, cool breeze begun to blow, and that was as good as saying the
night was about done. I give her a turn with the paddle and brung her
nose to shore; then I got my gun and slipped out and into the edge of the
woods. I sat down there on a log, and looked out through the leaves. I
see the moon go off watch, and the darkness begin to blanket the river.
But in a little while I see a pale streak over the treetops, and knowed
the day was coming. So I took my gun and slipped off towards where I had
run across that camp fire, stopping every minute or two to listen. But I
hadn't no luck somehow; I couldn't seem to find the place. But by and
by, sure enough, I catched a glimpse of fire away through the trees. I
went for it, cautious and slow. By and by I was close enough to have a
look, and there laid a man on the ground. It most give me the fantods.
He had a blanket around his head, and his head was nearly in the fire. I
set there behind a clump of bushes in about six foot of him, and kept my
eyes on him steady. It was getting gray daylight now. Pretty soon he
gapped and stretched himself and hove off the blanket, and it was Miss
Watson's Jim! I bet I was glad to see him. I says:

"Hello, Jim!" and skipped out.

He bounced up and stared at me wild. Then he drops down on his knees,
and puts his hands together and says:

"Doan' hurt me--don't! I hain't ever done no harm to a ghos'. I alwuz
liked dead people, en done all I could for 'em. You go en git in de
river agin, whah you b'longs, en doan' do nuffn to Ole Jim, 'at 'uz awluz
yo' fren'."

Well, I warn't long making him understand I warn't dead. I was ever so
glad to see Jim. I warn't lonesome now. I told him I warn't afraid of
HIM telling the people where I was. I talked along, but he only set
there and looked at me; never said nothing. Then I says:

"It's good daylight. Le's get breakfast. Make up your camp fire good."

"What's de use er makin' up de camp fire to cook strawbries en sich
truck? But you got a gun, hain't you? Den we kin git sumfn better den
strawbries."

"Strawberries and such truck," I says. "Is that what you live on?"

"I couldn' git nuffn else," he says.

"Why, how long you been on the island, Jim?"

"I come heah de night arter you's killed."

"What, all that time?"

"Yes--indeedy."

"And ain't you had nothing but that kind of rubbage to eat?"

"No, sah--nuffn else."

"Well, you must be most starved, ain't you?"

"I reck'n I could eat a hoss. I think I could. How long you ben on de
islan'?"

"Since the night I got killed."

"No! W'y, what has you lived on? But you got a gun. Oh, yes, you got a
gun. Dat's good. Now you kill sumfn en I'll make up de fire."

So we went over to where the canoe was, and while he built a fire in a
grassy open place amongst the trees, I fetched meal and bacon and coffee,
and coffee-pot and frying-pan, and sugar and tin cups, and the nigger was
set back considerable, because he reckoned it was all done with
witchcraft. I catched a good big catfish, too, and Jim cleaned him with
his knife, and fried him.

When breakfast was ready we lolled on the grass and eat it smoking hot.
Jim laid it in with all his might, for he was most about starved. Then
when we had got pretty well stuffed, we laid off and lazied. By and by
Jim says:

"But looky here, Huck, who wuz it dat 'uz killed in dat shanty ef it
warn't you?"

Then I told him the whole thing, and he said it was smart. He said Tom
Sawyer couldn't get up no better plan than what I had. Then I says:

"How do you come to be here, Jim, and how'd you get here?"

He looked pretty uneasy, and didn't say nothing for a minute. Then he
says:

"Maybe I better not tell."

"Why, Jim?"

"Well, dey's reasons. But you wouldn' tell on me ef I uz to tell you,
would you, Huck?"

"Blamed if I would, Jim."

"Well, I b'lieve you, Huck. I--I RUN OFF."

"Jim!"

"But mind, you said you wouldn' tell--you know you said you wouldn' tell,
Huck."

"Well, I did. I said I wouldn't, and I'll stick to it. Honest INJUN, I
will. People would call me a low-down Abolitionist and despise me for
keeping mum--but that don't make no difference. I ain't a-going to tell,
and I ain't a-going back there, anyways. So, now, le's know all about
it."

"Well, you see, it 'uz dis way. Ole missus--dat's Miss Watson--she pecks
on me all de time, en treats me pooty rough, but she awluz said she
wouldn' sell me down to Orleans. But I noticed dey wuz a nigger trader
roun' de place considable lately, en I begin to git oneasy. Well, one
night I creeps to de do' pooty late, en de do' warn't quite shet, en I
hear old missus tell de widder she gwyne to sell me down to Orleans, but
she didn' want to, but she could git eight hund'd dollars for me, en it
'uz sich a big stack o' money she couldn' resis'. De widder she try to
git her to say she wouldn' do it, but I never waited to hear de res'. I
lit out mighty quick, I tell you.

"I tuck out en shin down de hill, en 'spec to steal a skift 'long de sho'
som'ers 'bove de town, but dey wuz people a-stirring yit, so I hid in de
ole tumble-down cooper-shop on de bank to wait for everybody to go 'way.
Well, I wuz dah all night. Dey wuz somebody roun' all de time. 'Long
'bout six in de mawnin' skifts begin to go by, en 'bout eight er nine
every skift dat went 'long wuz talkin' 'bout how yo' pap come over to de
town en say you's killed. Dese las' skifts wuz full o' ladies en genlmen
a-goin' over for to see de place. Sometimes dey'd pull up at de sho' en
take a res' b'fo' dey started acrost, so by de talk I got to know all
'bout de killin'. I 'uz powerful sorry you's killed, Huck, but I ain't
no mo' now.

"I laid dah under de shavin's all day. I 'uz hungry, but I warn't
afeard; bekase I knowed ole missus en de widder wuz goin' to start to de
camp-meet'n' right arter breakfas' en be gone all day, en dey knows I
goes off wid de cattle 'bout daylight, so dey wouldn' 'spec to see me
roun' de place, en so dey wouldn' miss me tell arter dark in de evenin'.
De yuther servants wouldn' miss me, kase dey'd shin out en take holiday
soon as de ole folks 'uz out'n de way.

"Well, when it come dark I tuck out up de river road, en went 'bout two
mile er more to whah dey warn't no houses. I'd made up my mine 'bout
what I's agwyne to do. You see, ef I kep' on tryin' to git away afoot,
de dogs 'ud track me; ef I stole a skift to cross over, dey'd miss dat
skift, you see, en dey'd know 'bout whah I'd lan' on de yuther side, en
whah to pick up my track. So I says, a raff is what I's arter; it doan'
MAKE no track.

"I see a light a-comin' roun' de p'int bymeby, so I wade' in en shove' a
log ahead o' me en swum more'n half way acrost de river, en got in
'mongst de drift-wood, en kep' my head down low, en kinder swum agin de
current tell de raff come along. Den I swum to de stern uv it en tuck a-
holt. It clouded up en 'uz pooty dark for a little while. So I clumb up
en laid down on de planks. De men 'uz all 'way yonder in de middle, whah
de lantern wuz. De river wuz a-risin', en dey wuz a good current; so I
reck'n'd 'at by fo' in de mawnin' I'd be twenty-five mile down de river,
en den I'd slip in jis b'fo' daylight en swim asho', en take to de woods
on de Illinois side.

"But I didn' have no luck. When we 'uz mos' down to de head er de islan'
a man begin to come aft wid de lantern, I see it warn't no use fer to
wait, so I slid overboard en struck out fer de islan'. Well, I had a
notion I could lan' mos' anywhers, but I couldn't--bank too bluff. I 'uz
mos' to de foot er de islan' b'fo' I found' a good place. I went into de
woods en jedged I wouldn' fool wid raffs no mo', long as dey move de
lantern roun' so. I had my pipe en a plug er dog-leg, en some matches in
my cap, en dey warn't wet, so I 'uz all right."

"And so you ain't had no meat nor bread to eat all this time? Why didn't
you get mud-turkles?"

"How you gwyne to git 'm? You can't slip up on um en grab um; en how's a
body gwyne to hit um wid a rock? How could a body do it in de night? En
I warn't gwyne to show mysef on de bank in de daytime."

"Well, that's so. You've had to keep in the woods all the time, of
course. Did you hear 'em shooting the cannon?"

"Oh, yes. I knowed dey was arter you. I see um go by heah--watched um
thoo de bushes."

Some young birds come along, flying a yard or two at a time and lighting.
Jim said it was a sign it was going to rain. He said it was a sign when
young chickens flew that way, and so he reckoned it was the same way when
young birds done it. I was going to catch some of them, but Jim wouldn't
let me. He said it was death. He said his father laid mighty sick once,
and some of them catched a bird, and his old granny said his father would
die, and he did.

And Jim said you mustn't count the things you are going to cook for
dinner, because that would bring bad luck. The same if you shook the
table-cloth after sundown. And he said if a man owned a beehive and that
man died, the bees must be told about it before sun-up next morning, or
else the bees would all weaken down and quit work and die. Jim said bees
wouldn't sting idiots; but I didn't believe that, because I had tried
them lots of times myself, and they wouldn't sting me.

I had heard about some of these things before, but not all of them. Jim
knowed all kinds of signs. He said he knowed most everything. I said it
looked to me like all the signs was about bad luck, and so I asked him if
there warn't any good-luck signs. He says:

"Mighty few--an' DEY ain't no use to a body. What you want to know when
good luck's a-comin' for? Want to keep it off?" And he said: "Ef you's
got hairy arms en a hairy breas', it's a sign dat you's agwyne to be
rich. Well, dey's some use in a sign like dat, 'kase it's so fur ahead.
You see, maybe you's got to be po' a long time fust, en so you might git
discourage' en kill yo'sef 'f you didn' know by de sign dat you gwyne to
be rich bymeby."

"Have you got hairy arms and a hairy breast, Jim?"

"What's de use to ax dat question? Don't you see I has?"

"Well, are you rich?"

"No, but I ben rich wunst, and gwyne to be rich agin. Wunst I had foteen
dollars, but I tuck to specalat'n', en got busted out."

"What did you speculate in, Jim?"

"Well, fust I tackled stock."

"What kind of stock?"

"Why, live stock--cattle, you know. I put ten dollars in a cow. But I
ain' gwyne to resk no mo' money in stock. De cow up 'n' died on my
han's."

"So you lost the ten dollars."

"No, I didn't lose it all. I on'y los' 'bout nine of it. I sole de hide
en taller for a dollar en ten cents."

"You had five dollars and ten cents left. Did you speculate any more?"

"Yes. You know that one-laigged nigger dat b'longs to old Misto Bradish?
Well, he sot up a bank, en say anybody dat put in a dollar would git fo'
dollars mo' at de en' er de year. Well, all de niggers went in, but dey
didn't have much. I wuz de on'y one dat had much. So I stuck out for
mo' dan fo' dollars, en I said 'f I didn' git it I'd start a bank mysef.
Well, o' course dat nigger want' to keep me out er de business, bekase he
says dey warn't business 'nough for two banks, so he say I could put in
my five dollars en he pay me thirty-five at de en' er de year.

"So I done it. Den I reck'n'd I'd inves' de thirty-five dollars right
off en keep things a-movin'. Dey wuz a nigger name' Bob, dat had ketched
a wood-flat, en his marster didn' know it; en I bought it off'n him en
told him to take de thirty-five dollars when de en' er de year come; but
somebody stole de wood-flat dat night, en nex day de one-laigged nigger
say de bank's busted. So dey didn' none uv us git no money."

"What did you do with the ten cents, Jim?"

"Well, I 'uz gwyne to spen' it, but I had a dream, en de dream tole me to
give it to a nigger name' Balum--Balum's Ass dey call him for short; he's
one er dem chuckleheads, you know. But he's lucky, dey say, en I see I
warn't lucky. De dream say let Balum inves' de ten cents en he'd make a
raise for me. Well, Balum he tuck de money, en when he wuz in church he
hear de preacher say dat whoever give to de po' len' to de Lord, en boun'
to git his money back a hund'd times. So Balum he tuck en give de ten
cents to de po', en laid low to see what wuz gwyne to come of it."

"Well, what did come of it, Jim?"

"Nuffn never come of it. I couldn' manage to k'leck dat money no way; en
Balum he couldn'. I ain' gwyne to len' no mo' money 'dout I see de
security. Boun' to git yo' money back a hund'd times, de preacher says!
Ef I could git de ten CENTS back, I'd call it squah, en be glad er de
chanst."

"Well, it's all right anyway, Jim, long as you're going to be rich again
some time or other."

"Yes; en I's rich now, come to look at it. I owns mysef, en I's wuth
eight hund'd dollars. I wisht I had de money, I wouldn' want no mo'."


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