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Chapter 9


CHAPTER IX.

I WANTED to go and look at a place right about the
middle of the island that I'd found when I was
exploring; so we started and soon got to it, because
the island was only three miles long and a quarter of a
mile wide.

This place was a tolerable long, steep hill or ridge
about forty foot high. We had a rough time getting
to the top, the sides was so steep and the bushes so
thick. We tramped and clumb around all over it, and
by and by found a good big cavern in the rock, most
up to the top on the side towards Illinois. The cavern
was as big as two or three rooms bunched together,
and Jim could stand up straight in it. It was cool in
there. Jim was for putting our traps in there right
away, but I said we didn't want to be climbing up and
down there all the time.

Jim said if we had the canoe hid in a good place,
and had all the traps in the cavern, we could rush there
if anybody was to come to the island, and they would
never find us without dogs. And, besides, he said
them little birds had said it was going to rain, and did
I want the things to get wet?

So we went back and got the canoe, and paddled up
abreast the cavern, and lugged all the traps up there.
Then we hunted up a place close by to hide the canoe
in, amongst the thick willows. We took some fish off
of the lines and set them again, and begun to get ready
for dinner.

The door of the cavern was big enough to roll a
hogshead in, and on one side of the door the floor
stuck out a little bit, and was flat and a good place to
build a fire on. So we built it there and cooked
dinner.

We spread the blankets inside for a carpet, and eat
our dinner in there. We put all the other things handy
at the back of the cavern. Pretty soon it darkened up,
and begun to thunder and lighten; so the birds was
right about it. Directly it begun to rain, and it rained
like all fury, too, and I never see the wind blow so.
It was one of these regular summer storms. It would
get so dark that it looked all blue-black outside, and
lovely; and the rain would thrash along by so thick
that the trees off a little ways looked dim and spider-
webby; and here would come a blast of wind that
would bend the trees down and turn up the pale under-
side of the leaves; and then a perfect ripper of a gust
would follow along and set the branches to tossing
their arms as if they was just wild; and next, when it
was just about the bluest and blackest -- FST! it was as
bright as glory, and you'd have a little glimpse of tree-
tops a-plunging about away off yonder in the storm,
hundreds of yards further than you could see before;
dark as sin again in a second, and now you'd hear the
thunder let go with an awful crash, and then go rum-
bling, grumbling, tumbling, down the sky towards the
under side of the world, like rolling empty barrels
down stairs -- where it's long stairs and they bounce a
good deal, you know.

"Jim, this is nice," I says. "I wouldn't want to
be nowhere else but here. Pass me along another
hunk of fish and some hot corn-bread."

"Well, you wouldn't a ben here 'f it hadn't a ben
for Jim. You'd a ben down dah in de woods widout
any dinner, en gittn' mos' drownded, too; dat you
would, honey. Chickens knows when it's gwyne to
rain, en so do de birds, chile."

The river went on raising and raising for ten or
twelve days, till at last it was over the banks. The
water was three or four foot deep on the island in the
low places and on the Illinois bottom. On that side it
was a good many miles wide, but on the Missouri side
it was the same old distance across -- a half a mile --
because the Missouri shore was just a wall of high
bluffs.

Daytimes we paddled all over the island in the canoe,
It was mighty cool and shady in the deep woods, even
if the sun was blazing outside. We went winding in
and out amongst the trees, and sometimes the vines
hung so thick we had to back away and go some other
way. Well, on every old broken-down tree you could
see rabbits and snakes and such things; and when
the island had been overflowed a day or two they got
so tame, on account of being hungry, that you could
paddle right up and put your hand on them if you
wanted to; but not the snakes and turtles -- they would
slide off in the water. The ridge our cavern was in
was full of them. We could a had pets enough if we'd
wanted them.

One night we catched a little section of a lumber
raft -- nice pine planks. It was twelve foot wide and
about fifteen or sixteen foot long, and the top stood
above water six or seven inches -- a solid, level floor.
We could see saw-logs go by in the daylight some-
times, but we let them go; we didn't show ourselves
in daylight.

Another night when we was up at the head of the
island, just before daylight, here comes a frame-house
down, on the west side. She was a two-story, and
tilted over considerable. We paddled out and got
aboard -- clumb in at an upstairs window. But it was
too dark to see yet, so we made the canoe fast and set
in her to wait for daylight.

The light begun to come before we got to the foot
of the island. Then we looked in at the window. We
could make out a bed, and a table, and two old chairs,
and lots of things around about on the floor, and there
was clothes hanging against the wall. There was
something laying on the floor in the far corner that
looked like a man. So Jim says:

"Hello, you!"

But it didn't budge. So I hollered again, and then
Jim says:

"De man ain't asleep -- he's dead. You hold still
-- I'll go en see."

He went, and bent down and looked, and says:

"It's a dead man. Yes, indeedy; naked, too.
He's ben shot in de back. I reck'n he's ben dead
two er three days. Come in, Huck, but doan' look at
his face -- it's too gashly."

I didn't look at him at all. Jim throwed some old
rags over him, but he needn't done it; I didn't want
to see him. There was heaps of old greasy cards
scattered around over the floor, and old whisky bottles,
and a couple of masks made out of black cloth; and
all over the walls was the ignorantest kind of words
and pictures made with charcoal. There was two old
dirty calico dresses, and a sun-bonnet, and some
women's underclothes hanging against the wall, and
some men's clothing, too. We put the lot into the
canoe -- it might come good. There was a boy's old
speckled straw hat on the floor; I took that, too.
And there was a bottle that had had milk in it, and it
had a rag stopper for a baby to suck. We would a
took the bottle, but it was broke. There was a seedy
old chest, and an old hair trunk with the hinges broke.
They stood open, but there warn't nothing left in them
that was any account. The way things was scattered
about we reckoned the people left in a hurry, and
warn't fixed so as to carry off most of their stuff.

We got an old tin lantern, and a butcher-knife with-
out any handle, and a bran-new Barlow knife worth
two bits in any store, and a lot of tallow candles, and a
tin candlestick, and a gourd, and a tin cup, and a ratty
old bedquilt off the bed, and a reticule with needles
and pins and beeswax and buttons and thread and all
such truck in it, and a hatchet and some nails, and a
fishline as thick as my little finger with some mon-
strous hooks on it, and a roll of buckskin, and a
leather dog-collar, and a horseshoe, and some vials of
medicine that didn't have no label on them; and just
as we was leaving I found a tolerable good curry-comb,
and Jim he found a ratty old fiddle-bow, and a wooden
leg. The straps was broke off of it, but, barring that,
it was a good enough leg, though it was too long for
me and not long enough for Jim, and we couldn't find
the other one, though we hunted all around.

And so, take it all around, we made a good haul.
When we was ready to shove off we was a quarter of a
mile below the island, and it was pretty broad day; so
I made Jim lay down in the canoe and cover up with
the quilt, because if he set up people could tell he was
a nigger a good ways off. I paddled over to the
Illinois shore, and drifted down most a half a mile
doing it. I crept up the dead water under the bank,
and hadn't no accidents and didn't see nobody. We
got home all safe.

Mark Twain