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Chapter 20


THEY asked us considerable many questions; wanted
to know what we covered up the raft that way
for, and laid by in the daytime instead of running --
was Jim a runaway nigger? Says I:

"Goodness sakes! would a runaway nigger run

No, they allowed he wouldn't. I had to account
for things some way, so I says:

"My folks was living in Pike County, in Missouri,
where I was born, and they all died off but me and pa
and my brother Ike. Pa, he 'lowed he'd break up
and go down and live with Uncle Ben, who's got a
little one-horse place on the river, forty-four mile
below Orleans. Pa was pretty poor, and had some
debts; so when he'd squared up there warn't nothing
left but sixteen dollars and our nigger, Jim. That
warn't enough to take us fourteen hundred mile, deck
passage nor no other way. Well, when the river rose
pa had a streak of luck one day; he ketched this piece
of a raft; so we reckoned we'd go down to Orleans on
it. Pa's luck didn't hold out; a steamboat run over
the forrard corner of the raft one night, and we all
went overboard and dove under the wheel; Jim and
me come up all right, but pa was drunk, and Ike was
only four years old, so they never come up no more.
Well, for the next day or two we had considerable
trouble, because people was always coming out in skiffs
and trying to take Jim away from me, saying they be-
lieved he was a runaway nigger. We don't run day-
times no more now; nights they don't bother us."

The duke says:

"Leave me alone to cipher out a way so we can run
in the daytime if we want to. I'll think the thing
over -- I'll invent a plan that'll fix it. We'll let it
alone for to-day, because of course we don't want to
go by that town yonder in daylight -- it mightn't be

Towards night it begun to darken up and look like
rain; the heat lightning was squirting around low down
in the sky, and the leaves was beginning to shiver -- it
was going to be pretty ugly, it was easy to see that.
So the duke and the king went to overhauling our
wigwam, to see what the beds was like. My bed was
a straw tickQbetter than Jim's, which was a corn-
shuck tick; there's always cobs around about in a
shuck tick, and they poke into you and hurt; and
when you roll over the dry shucks sound like you was
rolling over in a pile of dead leaves; it makes such a
rustling that you wake up. Well, the duke allowed he
would take my bed; but the king allowed he wouldn't.
He says:

"I should a reckoned the difference in rank would a
sejested to you that a corn-shuck bed warn't just fitten
for me to sleep on. Your Grace 'll take the shuck
bed yourself."

Jim and me was in a sweat again for a minute, being
afraid there was going to be some more trouble
amongst them; so we was pretty glad when the duke

"'Tis my fate to be always ground into the mire
under the iron heel of oppression. Misfortune has
broken my once haughty spirit; I yield, I submit; 'tis
my fate. I am alone in the world -- let me suffer;
can bear it."

We got away as soon as it was good and dark. The
king told us to stand well out towards the middle of
the river, and not show a light till we got a long ways
below the town. We come in sight of the little bunch
of lights by and by -- that was the town, you know --
and slid by, about a half a mile out, all right. When
we was three-quarters of a mile below we hoisted up
our signal lantern; and about ten o'clock it come on
to rain and blow and thunder and lighten like every-
thing; so the king told us to both stay on watch till
the weather got better; then him and the duke crawled
into the wigwam and turned in for the night. It was
my watch below till twelve, but I wouldn't a turned in
anyway if I'd had a bed, because a body don't see
such a storm as that every day in the week, not by a
long sight. My souls, how the wind did scream along!
And every second or two there'd come a glare that lit
up the white-caps for a half a mile around, and you'd
see the islands looking dusty through the rain, and the
trees thrashing around in the wind; then comes a
H-WHACK! -- bum! bum! bumble-umble-um-bum-bum-
bum-bum -- and the thunder would go rumbling and
grumbling away, and quit -- and then RIP comes an-
other flash and another sockdolager. The waves most
washed me off the raft sometimes, but I hadn't any
clothes on, and didn't mind. We didn't have no
trouble about snags; the lightning was glaring and
flittering around so constant that we could see them
plenty soon enough to throw her head this way or that
and miss them.

I had the middle watch, you know, but I was pretty
sleepy by that time, so Jim he said he would stand the
first half of it for me; he was always mighty good
that way, Jim was. I crawled into the wigwam, but
the king and the duke had their legs sprawled around
so there warn't no show for me; so I laid outside -- I
didn't mind the rain, because it was warm, and the
waves warn't running so high now. About two they
come up again, though, and Jim was going to call me;
but he changed his mind, because he reckoned they
warn't high enough yet to do any harm; but he was
mistaken about that, for pretty soon all of a sudden
along comes a regular ripper and washed me over-
board. It most killed Jim a-laughing. He was the
easiest nigger to laugh that ever was, anyway.

I took the watch, and Jim he laid down and snored
away; and by and by the storm let up for good and
all; and the first cabin-light that showed I rousted him
out, and we slid the raft into hiding quarters for the

The king got out an old ratty deck of cards after
breakfast, and him and the duke played seven-up a
while, five cents a game. Then they got tired of it,
and allowed they would "lay out a campaign," as
they called it. The duke went down into his carpet-
bag, and fetched up a lot of little printed bills and
read them out loud. One bill said, "The celebrated
Dr. Armand de Montalban, of Paris," would "lecture
on the Science of Phrenology" at such and such a
place, on the blank day of blank, at ten cents admis-
sion, and "furnish charts of character at twenty-five
cents apiece." The duke said that was HIM. In an-
other bill he was the "world-renowned Shakespearian
tragedian, Garrick the Younger, of Drury Lane, Lon-
don." In other bills he had a lot of other names and
done other wonderful things, like finding water and
gold with a "divining-rod," "dissipating witch
spells," and so on. By and by he says:

"But the histrionic muse is the darling. Have you
ever trod the boards, Royalty?"

"No," says the king.

"You shall, then, before you're three days older,
Fallen Grandeur," says the duke. "The first good
town we come to we'll hire a hall and do the sword
fight in Richard III. and the balcony scene in Romeo
and Juliet. How does that strike you?"

"I'm in, up to the hub, for anything that will pay,
Bilgewater; but, you see, I don't know nothing about
play-actin', and hain't ever seen much of it. I was too
small when pap used to have 'em at the palace. Do
you reckon you can learn me?"


"All right. I'm jist a-freezn' for something fresh,
anyway. Le's commence right away."

So the duke he told him all about who Romeo was
and who Juliet was, and said he was used to being
Romeo, so the king could be Juliet.

"But if Juliet's such a young gal, duke, my peeled
head and my white whiskers is goin' to look oncommon
odd on her, maybe."

"No, don't you worry; these country jakes won't
ever think of that. Besides, you know, you'll be in
costume, and that makes all the difference in the
world; Juliet's in a balcony, enjoying the moonlight
before she goes to bed, and she's got on her night-
gown and her ruffled nightcap. Here are the costumes
for the parts."

He got out two or three curtain-calico suits, which
he said was meedyevil armor for Richard III. and
t'other chap, and a long white cotton nightshirt and a
ruffled nightcap to match. The king was satisfied; so
the duke got out his book and read the parts over in
the most splendid spread-eagle way, prancing around
and acting at the same time, to show how it had got to
be done; then he give the book to the king and told
him to get his part by heart.

There was a little one-horse town about three mile
down the bend, and after dinner the duke said he had
ciphered out his idea about how to run in daylight
without it being dangersome for Jim; so he allowed
he would go down to the town and fix that thing.
The king allowed he would go, too, and see if he
couldn't strike something. We was out of coffee, so
Jim said I better go along with them in the canoe and
get some.

When we got there there warn't nobody stirring;
streets empty, and perfectly dead and still, like Sun-
day. We found a sick nigger sunning himself in a
back yard, and he said everybody that warn't too
young or too sick or too old was gone to camp-
meeting, about two mile back in the woods. The king
got the directions, and allowed he'd go and work that
camp-meeting for all it was worth, and I might go,

The duke said what he was after was a printing-
office. We found it; a little bit of a concern, up over
a carpenter shop -- carpenters and printers all gone to
the meeting, and no doors locked. It was a dirty,
littered-up place, and had ink marks, and handbills
with pictures of horses and runaway niggers on them,
all over the walls. The duke shed his coat and said he
was all right now. So me and the king lit out for the

We got there in about a half an hour fairly dripping,
for it was a most awful hot day. There was as much
as a thousand people there from twenty mile around.
The woods was full of teams and wagons, hitched
everywheres, feeding out of the wagon-troughs and
stomping to keep off the flies. There was sheds made
out of poles and roofed over with branches, where they
had lemonade and gingerbread to sell, and piles of
watermelons and green corn and such-like truck.

The preaching was going on under the same kinds
of sheds, only they was bigger and held crowds of
people. The benches was made out of outside slabs
of logs, with holes bored in the round side to drive
sticks into for legs. They didn't have no backs.
The preachers had high platforms to stand on at one
end of the sheds. The women had on sun-bonnets;
and some had linsey-woolsey frocks, some gingham
ones, and a few of the young ones had on calico.
Some of the young men was barefooted, and some of
the children didn't have on any clothes but just a tow-
linen shirt. Some of the old women was knitting, and
some of the young folks was courting on the sly.

The first shed we come to the preacher was lining
out a hymn. He lined out two lines, everybody sung
it, and it was kind of grand to hear it, there was so
many of them and they done it in such a rousing way;
then he lined out two more for them to sing -- and so
on. The people woke up more and more, and sung
louder and louder; and towards the end some begun
to groan, and some begun to shout. Then the preacher
begun to preach, and begun in earnest, too; and went
weaving first to one side of the platform and then the
other, and then a-leaning down over the front of it,
with his arms and his body going all the time, and
shouting his words out with all his might; and every
now and then he would hold up his Bible and spread it
open, and kind of pass it around this way and that,
shouting, "It's the brazen serpent in the wilderness!
Look upon it and live!" And people would shout
out, "Glory! -- A-a-MEN!" And so he went on, and
the people groaning and crying and saying amen:

"Oh, come to the mourners' bench! come, black
with sin! (AMEN!) come, sick and sore! (AMEN!)
come, lame and halt and blind! (AMEN!) come, pore
and needy, sunk in shame! (A-A-MEN!) come, all
that's worn and soiled and suffering! -- come with a
broken spirit! come with a contrite heart! come in
your rags and sin and dirt! the waters that cleanse is
free, the door of heaven stands open -- oh, enter in
and be at rest!" (A-A-MEN! GLORY, GLORY HALLELUJAH!)

And so on. You couldn't make out what the
preacher said any more, on account of the shouting
and crying. Folks got up everywheres in the crowd,
and worked their way just by main strength to the
mourners' bench, with the tears running down their
faces; and when all the mourners had got up there to
the front benches in a crowd, they sung and shouted
and flung themselves down on the straw, just crazy
and wild.

Well, the first I knowed the king got a-going, and
you could hear him over everybody; and next he
went a-charging up on to the platform, and the
preacher he begged him to speak to the people, and
he done it. He told them he was a pirate -- been a
pirate for thirty years out in the Indian Ocean -- and
his crew was thinned out considerable last spring in a
fight, and he was home now to take out some fresh
men, and thanks to goodness he'd been robbed last
night and put ashore off of a steamboat without a cent,
and he was glad of it; it was the blessedest thing that
ever happened to him, because he was a changed man
now, and happy for the first time in his life; and,
poor as he was, he was going to start right off and
work his way back to the Indian Ocean, and put in the
rest of his life trying to turn the pirates into the true
path; for he could do it better than anybody else,
being acquainted with all pirate crews in that ocean;
and though it would take him a long time to get
there without money, he would get there anyway, and
every time he convinced a pirate he would say to him,
"Don't you thank me, don't you give me no credit;
it all belongs to them dear people in Pokeville camp-
meeting, natural brothers and benefactors of the race,
and that dear preacher there, the truest friend a pirate
ever had!"

And then he busted into tears, and so did everybody.
Then somebody sings out, "Take up a collection for
him, take up a collection!" Well, a half a dozen
made a jump to do it, but somebody sings out, "Let
HIM pass the hat around!" Then everybody said it,
the preacher too.

So the king went all through the crowd with his hat
swabbing his eyes, and blessing the people and praising
them and thanking them for being so good to the poor
pirates away off there; and every little while the
prettiest kind of girls, with the tears running down
their cheeks, would up and ask him would he let them
kiss him for to remember him by; and he always done
it; and some of them he hugged and kissed as many
as five or six times -- and he was invited to stay a
week; and everybody wanted him to live in their
houses, and said they'd think it was an honor; but he
said as this was the last day of the camp-meeting he
couldn't do no good, and besides he was in a sweat to
get to the Indian Ocean right off and go to work on
the pirates.

When we got back to the raft and he come to count
up he found he had collected eighty-seven dollars and
seventy-five cents. And then he had fetched away a
three-gallon jug of whisky, too, that he found under a
wagon when he was starting home through the woods.
The king said, take it all around, it laid over any day
he'd ever put in in the missionarying line. He said it
warn't no use talking, heathens don't amount to shucks
alongside of pirates to work a camp-meeting with.

The duke was thinking HE'D been doing pretty well
till the king come to show up, but after that he didn't
think so so much. He had set up and printed off two
little jobs for farmers in that printing-office -- horse
bills -- and took the money, four dollars. And he
had got in ten dollars' worth of advertisements for the
paper, which he said he would put in for four dollars
if they would pay in advance -- so they done it. The
price of the paper was two dollars a year, but he took
in three subscriptions for half a dollar apiece on con-
dition of them paying him in advance; they were going
to pay in cordwood and onions as usual, but he said
he had just bought the concern and knocked down the
price as low as he could afford it, and was going to
run it for cash. He set up a little piece of poetry,
which he made, himself, out of his own head -- three
verses -- kind of sweet and saddish -- the name of it
was, "Yes, crush, cold world, this breaking heart" --
and he left that all set up and ready to print in the
paper, and didn't charge nothing for it. Well, he
took in nine dollars and a half, and said he'd done a
pretty square day's work for it.

Then he showed us another little job he'd printed
and hadn't charged for, because it was for us. It had
a picture of a runaway nigger with a bundle on a stick
over his shoulder, and "$200 reward" under it. The
reading was all about Jim, and just described him to a
dot. It said he run away from St. Jacques' planta-
tion, forty mile below New Orleans, last winter, and
likely went north, and whoever would catch him and
send him back he could have the reward and expenses.

"Now," says the duke, "after to-night we can run
in the daytime if we want to. Whenever we see any-
body coming we can tie Jim hand and foot with a rope,
and lay him in the wigwam and show this handbill and
say we captured him up the river, and were too poor
to travel on a steamboat, so we got this little raft on
credit from our friends and are going down to get the
reward. Handcuffs and chains would look still better
on Jim, but it wouldn't go well with the story of us
being so poor. Too much like jewelry. Ropes are
the correct thing -- we must preserve the unities, as we
say on the boards."

We all said the duke was pretty smart, and there
couldn't be no trouble about running daytimes. We
judged we could make miles enough that night to get
out of the reach of the powwow we reckoned the duke's
work in the printing office was going to make in that
little town; then we could boom right along if we
wanted to.

We laid low and kept still, and never shoved out till
nearly ten o'clock; then we slid by, pretty wide away
from the town, and didn't hoist our lantern till we was
clear out of sight of it.

When Jim called me to take the watch at four in the
morning, he says:

"Huck, does you reck'n we gwyne to run acrost
any mo' kings on dis trip?"

"No," I says, "I reckon not."

"Well," says he, "dat's all right, den. I doan'
mine one er two kings, but dat's enough. Dis one's
powerful drunk, en de duke ain' much better."

I found Jim had been trying to get him to talk
French, so he could hear what it was like; but he said
he had been in this country so long, and had so much
trouble, he'd forgot it.

Mark Twain