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Chapter 31


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 mesmeriz-
ing, 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 bullyrag-
ging 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 screech-
ing; 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 re-
ward 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 feel-
ing. 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, some-
times 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 sleep-
ing; 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 de-
cide, 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; be-
cause 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 be-
fore 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 dog-
gery 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 noth-
ing, 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.

Mark Twain