The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Complete
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Part 2 out of 6
with a skinned rabbit and set it and catch a catfish that was as big as a
man, being six foot two inches long, and weighed over two hundred pounds.
We couldn't handle him, of course; he would a flung us into Illinois. We
just set there and watched him rip and tear around till he drownded. We
found a brass button in his stomach and a round ball, and lots of
rubbage. We split the ball open with the hatchet, and there was a spool
in it. Jim said he'd had it there a long time, to coat it over so and
make a ball of it. It was as big a fish as was ever catched in the
Mississippi, I reckon. Jim said he hadn't ever seen a bigger one. He
would a been worth a good deal over at the village. They peddle out such
a fish as that by the pound in the market-house there; everybody buys
some of him; his meat's as white as snow and makes a good fry.
Next morning I said it was getting slow and dull, and I wanted to get a
stirring up some way. I said I reckoned I would slip over the river and
find out what was going on. Jim liked that notion; but he said I must go
in the dark and look sharp. Then he studied it over and said, couldn't I
put on some of them old things and dress up like a girl? That was a good
notion, too. So we shortened up one of the calico gowns, and I turned up
my trouser-legs to my knees and got into it. Jim hitched it behind with
the hooks, and it was a fair fit. I put on the sun-bonnet and tied it
under my chin, and then for a body to look in and see my face was like
looking down a joint of stove-pipe. Jim said nobody would know me, even
in the daytime, hardly. I practiced around all day to get the hang of
the things, and by and by I could do pretty well in them, only Jim said I
didn't walk like a girl; and he said I must quit pulling up my gown to
get at my britches-pocket. I took notice, and done better.
I started up the Illinois shore in the canoe just after dark.
I started across to the town from a little below the ferry-landing, and
the drift of the current fetched me in at the bottom of the town. I tied
up and started along the bank. There was a light burning in a little
shanty that hadn't been lived in for a long time, and I wondered who had
took up quarters there. I slipped up and peeped in at the window. There
was a woman about forty year old in there knitting by a candle that was
on a pine table. I didn't know her face; she was a stranger, for you
couldn't start a face in that town that I didn't know. Now this was
lucky, because I was weakening; I was getting afraid I had come; people
might know my voice and find me out. But if this woman had been in such
a little town two days she could tell me all I wanted to know; so I
knocked at the door, and made up my mind I wouldn't forget I was a girl.
"COME in," says the woman, and I did. She says: "Take a cheer."
I done it. She looked me all over with her little shiny eyes, and says:
"What might your name be?"
"Where 'bouts do you live? In this neighborhood?'
"No'm. In Hookerville, seven mile below. I've walked all the way and
I'm all tired out."
"Hungry, too, I reckon. I'll find you something."
"No'm, I ain't hungry. I was so hungry I had to stop two miles below
here at a farm; so I ain't hungry no more. It's what makes me so late.
My mother's down sick, and out of money and everything, and I come to
tell my uncle Abner Moore. He lives at the upper end of the town, she
says. I hain't ever been here before. Do you know him?"
"No; but I don't know everybody yet. I haven't lived here quite two
weeks. It's a considerable ways to the upper end of the town. You better
stay here all night. Take off your bonnet."
"No," I says; "I'll rest a while, I reckon, and go on. I ain't afeared
of the dark."
She said she wouldn't let me go by myself, but her husband would be in by
and by, maybe in a hour and a half, and she'd send him along with me.
Then she got to talking about her husband, and about her relations up the
river, and her relations down the river, and about how much better off
they used to was, and how they didn't know but they'd made a mistake
coming to our town, instead of letting well alone--and so on and so on,
till I was afeard I had made a mistake coming to her to find out what was
going on in the town; but by and by she dropped on to pap and the murder,
and then I was pretty willing to let her clatter right along. She told
about me and Tom Sawyer finding the six thousand dollars (only she got it
ten) and all about pap and what a hard lot he was, and what a hard lot I
was, and at last she got down to where I was murdered. I says:
"Who done it? We've heard considerable about these goings on down in
Hookerville, but we don't know who 'twas that killed Huck Finn."
"Well, I reckon there's a right smart chance of people HERE that'd like
to know who killed him. Some think old Finn done it himself."
"No--is that so?"
"Most everybody thought it at first. He'll never know how nigh he come
to getting lynched. But before night they changed around and judged it
was done by a runaway nigger named Jim."
I stopped. I reckoned I better keep still. She run on, and never
noticed I had put in at all:
"The nigger run off the very night Huck Finn was killed. So there's a
reward out for him--three hundred dollars. And there's a reward out for
old Finn, too--two hundred dollars. You see, he come to town the morning
after the murder, and told about it, and was out with 'em on the
ferryboat hunt, and right away after he up and left. Before night they
wanted to lynch him, but he was gone, you see. Well, next day they found
out the nigger was gone; they found out he hadn't ben seen sence ten
o'clock the night the murder was done. So then they put it on him, you
see; and while they was full of it, next day, back comes old Finn, and
went boo-hooing to Judge Thatcher to get money to hunt for the nigger all
over Illinois with. The judge gave him some, and that evening he got
drunk, and was around till after midnight with a couple of mighty
hard-looking strangers, and then went off with them. Well, he hain't
come back sence, and they ain't looking for him back till this thing
blows over a little, for people thinks now that he killed his boy and
fixed things so folks would think robbers done it, and then he'd get
Huck's money without having to bother a long time with a lawsuit. People
do say he warn't any too good to do it. Oh, he's sly, I reckon. If he
don't come back for a year he'll be all right. You can't prove anything
on him, you know; everything will be quieted down then, and he'll walk in
Huck's money as easy as nothing."
"Yes, I reckon so, 'm. I don't see nothing in the way of it. Has
everybody quit thinking the nigger done it?"
"Oh, no, not everybody. A good many thinks he done it. But they'll get
the nigger pretty soon now, and maybe they can scare it out of him."
"Why, are they after him yet?"
"Well, you're innocent, ain't you! Does three hundred dollars lay around
every day for people to pick up? Some folks think the nigger ain't far
from here. I'm one of them--but I hain't talked it around. A few days
ago I was talking with an old couple that lives next door in the log
shanty, and they happened to say hardly anybody ever goes to that island
over yonder that they call Jackson's Island. Don't anybody live there?
says I. No, nobody, says they. I didn't say any more, but I done some
thinking. I was pretty near certain I'd seen smoke over there, about the
head of the island, a day or two before that, so I says to myself, like
as not that nigger's hiding over there; anyway, says I, it's worth the
trouble to give the place a hunt. I hain't seen any smoke sence, so I
reckon maybe he's gone, if it was him; but husband's going over to see
--him and another man. He was gone up the river; but he got back to-day,
and I told him as soon as he got here two hours ago."
I had got so uneasy I couldn't set still. I had to do something with my
hands; so I took up a needle off of the table and went to threading it.
My hands shook, and I was making a bad job of it. When the woman stopped
talking I looked up, and she was looking at me pretty curious and smiling
a little. I put down the needle and thread, and let on to be interested
--and I was, too--and says:
"Three hundred dollars is a power of money. I wish my mother could get
it. Is your husband going over there to-night?"
"Oh, yes. He went up-town with the man I was telling you of, to get a
boat and see if they could borrow another gun. They'll go over after
"Couldn't they see better if they was to wait till daytime?"
"Yes. And couldn't the nigger see better, too? After midnight he'll
likely be asleep, and they can slip around through the woods and hunt up
his camp fire all the better for the dark, if he's got one."
"I didn't think of that."
The woman kept looking at me pretty curious, and I didn't feel a bit
comfortable. Pretty soon she says"
"What did you say your name was, honey?"
Somehow it didn't seem to me that I said it was Mary before, so I didn't
look up--seemed to me I said it was Sarah; so I felt sort of cornered,
and was afeared maybe I was looking it, too. I wished the woman would
say something more; the longer she set still the uneasier I was. But now
"Honey, I thought you said it was Sarah when you first come in?"
"Oh, yes'm, I did. Sarah Mary Williams. Sarah's my first name. Some
calls me Sarah, some calls me Mary."
"Oh, that's the way of it?"
I was feeling better then, but I wished I was out of there, anyway. I
couldn't look up yet.
Well, the woman fell to talking about how hard times was, and how poor
they had to live, and how the rats was as free as if they owned the
place, and so forth and so on, and then I got easy again. She was right
about the rats. You'd see one stick his nose out of a hole in the corner
every little while. She said she had to have things handy to throw at
them when she was alone, or they wouldn't give her no peace. She showed
me a bar of lead twisted up into a knot, and said she was a good shot
with it generly, but she'd wrenched her arm a day or two ago, and didn't
know whether she could throw true now. But she watched for a chance, and
directly banged away at a rat; but she missed him wide, and said "Ouch!"
it hurt her arm so. Then she told me to try for the next one. I wanted
to be getting away before the old man got back, but of course I didn't
let on. I got the thing, and the first rat that showed his nose I let
drive, and if he'd a stayed where he was he'd a been a tolerable sick
rat. She said that was first-rate, and she reckoned I would hive the
next one. She went and got the lump of lead and fetched it back, and
brought along a hank of yarn which she wanted me to help her with. I
held up my two hands and she put the hank over them, and went on talking
about her and her husband's matters. But she broke off to say:
"Keep your eye on the rats. You better have the lead in your lap,
So she dropped the lump into my lap just at that moment, and I clapped my
legs together on it and she went on talking. But only about a minute.
Then she took off the hank and looked me straight in the face, and very
pleasant, and says:
"Come, now, what's your real name?"
"What's your real name? Is it Bill, or Tom, or Bob?--or what is it?"
I reckon I shook like a leaf, and I didn't know hardly what to do. But I
"Please to don't poke fun at a poor girl like me, mum. If I'm in the way
"No, you won't. Set down and stay where you are. I ain't going to hurt
you, and I ain't going to tell on you, nuther. You just tell me your
secret, and trust me. I'll keep it; and, what's more, I'll help you.
So'll my old man if you want him to. You see, you're a runaway
'prentice, that's all. It ain't anything. There ain't no harm in it.
You've been treated bad, and you made up your mind to cut. Bless you,
child, I wouldn't tell on you. Tell me all about it now, that's a good
So I said it wouldn't be no use to try to play it any longer, and I would
just make a clean breast and tell her everything, but she musn't go back
on her promise. Then I told her my father and mother was dead, and the
law had bound me out to a mean old farmer in the country thirty mile back
from the river, and he treated me so bad I couldn't stand it no longer;
he went away to be gone a couple of days, and so I took my chance and
stole some of his daughter's old clothes and cleared out, and I had been
three nights coming the thirty miles. I traveled nights, and hid
daytimes and slept, and the bag of bread and meat I carried from home
lasted me all the way, and I had a-plenty. I said I believed my uncle
Abner Moore would take care of me, and so that was why I struck out for
this town of Goshen.
"Goshen, child? This ain't Goshen. This is St. Petersburg. Goshen's
ten mile further up the river. Who told you this was Goshen?"
"Why, a man I met at daybreak this morning, just as I was going to turn
into the woods for my regular sleep. He told me when the roads forked I
must take the right hand, and five mile would fetch me to Goshen."
"He was drunk, I reckon. He told you just exactly wrong."
"Well, he did act like he was drunk, but it ain't no matter now. I got
to be moving along. I'll fetch Goshen before daylight."
"Hold on a minute. I'll put you up a snack to eat. You might want it."
So she put me up a snack, and says:
"Say, when a cow's laying down, which end of her gets up first? Answer
up prompt now--don't stop to study over it. Which end gets up first?"
"The hind end, mum."
"Well, then, a horse?"
"The for'rard end, mum."
"Which side of a tree does the moss grow on?"
"If fifteen cows is browsing on a hillside, how many of them eats with
their heads pointed the same direction?"
"The whole fifteen, mum."
"Well, I reckon you HAVE lived in the country. I thought maybe you was
trying to hocus me again. What's your real name, now?"
"George Peters, mum."
"Well, try to remember it, George. Don't forget and tell me it's
Elexander before you go, and then get out by saying it's George Elexander
when I catch you. And don't go about women in that old calico. You do a
girl tolerable poor, but you might fool men, maybe. Bless you, child,
when you set out to thread a needle don't hold the thread still and fetch
the needle up to it; hold the needle still and poke the thread at it;
that's the way a woman most always does, but a man always does t'other
way. And when you throw at a rat or anything, hitch yourself up a tiptoe
and fetch your hand up over your head as awkward as you can, and miss
your rat about six or seven foot. Throw stiff-armed from the shoulder,
like there was a pivot there for it to turn on, like a girl; not from the
wrist and elbow, with your arm out to one side, like a boy. And, mind
you, when a girl tries to catch anything in her lap she throws her knees
apart; she don't clap them together, the way you did when you catched the
lump of lead. Why, I spotted you for a boy when you was threading the
needle; and I contrived the other things just to make certain. Now trot
along to your uncle, Sarah Mary Williams George Elexander Peters, and if
you get into trouble you send word to Mrs. Judith Loftus, which is me,
and I'll do what I can to get you out of it. Keep the river road all the
way, and next time you tramp take shoes and socks with you. The river
road's a rocky one, and your feet'll be in a condition when you get to
Goshen, I reckon."
I went up the bank about fifty yards, and then I doubled on my tracks and
slipped back to where my canoe was, a good piece below the house. I
jumped in, and was off in a hurry. I went up-stream far enough to make
the head of the island, and then started across. I took off the
sun-bonnet, for I didn't want no blinders on then. When I was about the
middle I heard the clock begin to strike, so I stops and listens; the
sound come faint over the water but clear--eleven. When I struck the
head of the island I never waited to blow, though I was most winded, but
I shoved right into the timber where my old camp used to be, and started
a good fire there on a high and dry spot.
Then I jumped in the canoe and dug out for our place, a mile and a half
below, as hard as I could go. I landed, and slopped through the timber
and up the ridge and into the cavern. There Jim laid, sound asleep on
the ground. I roused him out and says:
"Git up and hump yourself, Jim! There ain't a minute to lose. They're
Jim never asked no questions, he never said a word; but the way he worked
for the next half an hour showed about how he was scared. By that time
everything we had in the world was on our raft, and she was ready to be
shoved out from the willow cove where she was hid. We put out the camp
fire at the cavern the first thing, and didn't show a candle outside
I took the canoe out from the shore a little piece, and took a look; but
if there was a boat around I couldn't see it, for stars and shadows ain't
good to see by. Then we got out the raft and slipped along down in the
shade, past the foot of the island dead still--never saying a word.
IT must a been close on to one o'clock when we got below the island at
last, and the raft did seem to go mighty slow. If a boat was to come
along we was going to take to the canoe and break for the Illinois shore;
and it was well a boat didn't come, for we hadn't ever thought to put the
gun in the canoe, or a fishing-line, or anything to eat. We was in
ruther too much of a sweat to think of so many things. It warn't good
judgment to put EVERYTHING on the raft.
If the men went to the island I just expect they found the camp fire I
built, and watched it all night for Jim to come. Anyways, they stayed
away from us, and if my building the fire never fooled them it warn't no
fault of mine. I played it as low down on them as I could.
When the first streak of day began to show we tied up to a towhead in a
big bend on the Illinois side, and hacked off cottonwood branches with
the hatchet, and covered up the raft with them so she looked like there
had been a cave-in in the bank there. A tow-head is a sandbar that has
cottonwoods on it as thick as harrow-teeth.
We had mountains on the Missouri shore and heavy timber on the Illinois
side, and the channel was down the Missouri shore at that place, so we
warn't afraid of anybody running across us. We laid there all day, and
watched the rafts and steamboats spin down the Missouri shore, and
up-bound steamboats fight the big river in the middle. I told Jim all
about the time I had jabbering with that woman; and Jim said she was a
smart one, and if she was to start after us herself she wouldn't set down
and watch a camp fire--no, sir, she'd fetch a dog. Well, then, I said,
why couldn't she tell her husband to fetch a dog? Jim said he bet she
did think of it by the time the men was ready to start, and he believed
they must a gone up-town to get a dog and so they lost all that time, or
else we wouldn't be here on a towhead sixteen or seventeen mile below the
village--no, indeedy, we would be in that same old town again. So I said
I didn't care what was the reason they didn't get us as long as they
When it was beginning to come on dark we poked our heads out of the
cottonwood thicket, and looked up and down and across; nothing in sight;
so Jim took up some of the top planks of the raft and built a snug wigwam
to get under in blazing weather and rainy, and to keep the things dry.
Jim made a floor for the wigwam, and raised it a foot or more above the
level of the raft, so now the blankets and all the traps was out of reach
of steamboat waves. Right in the middle of the wigwam we made a layer of
dirt about five or six inches deep with a frame around it for to hold it
to its place; this was to build a fire on in sloppy weather or chilly;
the wigwam would keep it from being seen. We made an extra steering-oar,
too, because one of the others might get broke on a snag or something.
We fixed up a short forked stick to hang the old lantern on, because we
must always light the lantern whenever we see a steamboat coming
down-stream, to keep from getting run over; but we wouldn't have to light
it for up-stream boats unless we see we was in what they call a
"crossing"; for the river was pretty high yet, very low banks being still
a little under water; so up-bound boats didn't always run the channel,
but hunted easy water.
This second night we run between seven and eight hours, with a current
that was making over four mile an hour. We catched fish and talked, and
we took a swim now and then to keep off sleepiness. It was kind of
solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking
up at the stars, and we didn't ever feel like talking loud, and it warn't
often that we laughed--only a little kind of a low chuckle. We had
mighty good weather as a general thing, and nothing ever happened to us
at all--that night, nor the next, nor the next.
Every night we passed towns, some of them away up on black hillsides,
nothing but just a shiny bed of lights; not a house could you see. The
fifth night we passed St. Louis, and it was like the whole world lit up.
In St. Petersburg they used to say there was twenty or thirty thousand
people in St. Louis, but I never believed it till I see that wonderful
spread of lights at two o'clock that still night. There warn't a sound
there; everybody was asleep.
Every night now I used to slip ashore towards ten o'clock at some little
village, and buy ten or fifteen cents' worth of meal or bacon or other
stuff to eat; and sometimes I lifted a chicken that warn't roosting
comfortable, and took him along. Pap always said, take a chicken when
you get a chance, because if you don't want him yourself you can easy
find somebody that does, and a good deed ain't ever forgot. I never see
pap when he didn't want the chicken himself, but that is what he used to
Mornings before daylight I slipped into cornfields and borrowed a
watermelon, or a mushmelon, or a punkin, or some new corn, or things of
that kind. Pap always said it warn't no harm to borrow things if you was
meaning to pay them back some time; but the widow said it warn't anything
but a soft name for stealing, and no decent body would do it. Jim said
he reckoned the widow was partly right and pap was partly right; so the
best way would be for us to pick out two or three things from the list
and say we wouldn't borrow them any more--then he reckoned it wouldn't be
no harm to borrow the others. So we talked it over all one night,
drifting along down the river, trying to make up our minds whether to
drop the watermelons, or the cantelopes, or the mushmelons, or what. But
towards daylight we got it all settled satisfactory, and concluded to
drop crabapples and p'simmons. We warn't feeling just right before that,
but it was all comfortable now. I was glad the way it come out, too,
because crabapples ain't ever good, and the p'simmons wouldn't be ripe
for two or three months yet.
We shot a water-fowl now and then that got up too early in the morning or
didn't go to bed early enough in the evening. Take it all round, we
lived pretty high.
The fifth night below St. Louis we had a big storm after midnight, with a
power of thunder and lightning, and the rain poured down in a solid
sheet. We stayed in the wigwam and let the raft take care of itself.
When the lightning glared out we could see a big straight river ahead,
and high, rocky bluffs on both sides. By and by says I, "Hel-LO, Jim,
looky yonder!" It was a steamboat that had killed herself on a rock. We
was drifting straight down for her. The lightning showed her very
distinct. She was leaning over, with part of her upper deck above water,
and you could see every little chimbly-guy clean and clear, and a chair
by the big bell, with an old slouch hat hanging on the back of it, when
the flashes come.
Well, it being away in the night and stormy, and all so mysterious-like,
I felt just the way any other boy would a felt when I see that wreck
laying there so mournful and lonesome in the middle of the river. I
wanted to get aboard of her and slink around a little, and see what there
was there. So I says:
"Le's land on her, Jim."
But Jim was dead against it at first. He says:
"I doan' want to go fool'n 'long er no wrack. We's doin' blame' well, en
we better let blame' well alone, as de good book says. Like as not dey's
a watchman on dat wrack."
"Watchman your grandmother," I says; "there ain't nothing to watch but
the texas and the pilot-house; and do you reckon anybody's going to resk
his life for a texas and a pilot-house such a night as this, when it's
likely to break up and wash off down the river any minute?" Jim couldn't
say nothing to that, so he didn't try. "And besides," I says, "we might
borrow something worth having out of the captain's stateroom. Seegars, I
bet you--and cost five cents apiece, solid cash. Steamboat captains is
always rich, and get sixty dollars a month, and THEY don't care a cent
what a thing costs, you know, long as they want it. Stick a candle in
your pocket; I can't rest, Jim, till we give her a rummaging. Do you
reckon Tom Sawyer would ever go by this thing? Not for pie, he wouldn't.
He'd call it an adventure--that's what he'd call it; and he'd land on
that wreck if it was his last act. And wouldn't he throw style into it?
--wouldn't he spread himself, nor nothing? Why, you'd think it was
Christopher C'lumbus discovering Kingdom-Come. I wish Tom Sawyer WAS
Jim he grumbled a little, but give in. He said we mustn't talk any more
than we could help, and then talk mighty low. The lightning showed us
the wreck again just in time, and we fetched the stabboard derrick, and
made fast there.
The deck was high out here. We went sneaking down the slope of it to
labboard, in the dark, towards the texas, feeling our way slow with our
feet, and spreading our hands out to fend off the guys, for it was so
dark we couldn't see no sign of them. Pretty soon we struck the forward
end of the skylight, and clumb on to it; and the next step fetched us in
front of the captain's door, which was open, and by Jimminy, away down
through the texas-hall we see a light! and all in the same second we seem
to hear low voices in yonder!
Jim whispered and said he was feeling powerful sick, and told me to come
along. I says, all right, and was going to start for the raft; but just
then I heard a voice wail out and say:
"Oh, please don't, boys; I swear I won't ever tell!"
Another voice said, pretty loud:
"It's a lie, Jim Turner. You've acted this way before. You always want
more'n your share of the truck, and you've always got it, too, because
you've swore 't if you didn't you'd tell. But this time you've said it
jest one time too many. You're the meanest, treacherousest hound in this
By this time Jim was gone for the raft. I was just a-biling with
curiosity; and I says to myself, Tom Sawyer wouldn't back out now, and so
I won't either; I'm a-going to see what's going on here. So I dropped on
my hands and knees in the little passage, and crept aft in the dark till
there warn't but one stateroom betwixt me and the cross-hall of the
texas. Then in there I see a man stretched on the floor and tied hand
and foot, and two men standing over him, and one of them had a dim
lantern in his hand, and the other one had a pistol. This one kept
pointing the pistol at the man's head on the floor, and saying:
"I'd LIKE to! And I orter, too--a mean skunk!"
The man on the floor would shrivel up and say, "Oh, please don't, Bill; I
hain't ever goin' to tell."
And every time he said that the man with the lantern would laugh and say:
"'Deed you AIN'T! You never said no truer thing 'n that, you bet you."
And once he said: "Hear him beg! and yit if we hadn't got the best of
him and tied him he'd a killed us both. And what FOR? Jist for noth'n.
Jist because we stood on our RIGHTS--that's what for. But I lay you
ain't a-goin' to threaten nobody any more, Jim Turner. Put UP that
"I don't want to, Jake Packard. I'm for killin' him--and didn't he kill
old Hatfield jist the same way--and don't he deserve it?"
"But I don't WANT him killed, and I've got my reasons for it."
"Bless yo' heart for them words, Jake Packard! I'll never forgit you
long's I live!" says the man on the floor, sort of blubbering.
Packard didn't take no notice of that, but hung up his lantern on a nail
and started towards where I was there in the dark, and motioned Bill to
come. I crawfished as fast as I could about two yards, but the boat
slanted so that I couldn't make very good time; so to keep from getting
run over and catched I crawled into a stateroom on the upper side. The
man came a-pawing along in the dark, and when Packard got to my
stateroom, he says:
"Here--come in here."
And in he come, and Bill after him. But before they got in I was up in
the upper berth, cornered, and sorry I come. Then they stood there, with
their hands on the ledge of the berth, and talked. I couldn't see them,
but I could tell where they was by the whisky they'd been having. I was
glad I didn't drink whisky; but it wouldn't made much difference anyway,
because most of the time they couldn't a treed me because I didn't
breathe. I was too scared. And, besides, a body COULDN'T breathe and
hear such talk. They talked low and earnest. Bill wanted to kill
Turner. He says:
"He's said he'll tell, and he will. If we was to give both our shares to
him NOW it wouldn't make no difference after the row and the way we've
served him. Shore's you're born, he'll turn State's evidence; now you
hear ME. I'm for putting him out of his troubles."
"So'm I," says Packard, very quiet.
"Blame it, I'd sorter begun to think you wasn't. Well, then, that's all
right. Le's go and do it."
"Hold on a minute; I hain't had my say yit. You listen to me.
Shooting's good, but there's quieter ways if the thing's GOT to be done.
But what I say is this: it ain't good sense to go court'n around after a
halter if you can git at what you're up to in some way that's jist as
good and at the same time don't bring you into no resks. Ain't that so?"
"You bet it is. But how you goin' to manage it this time?"
"Well, my idea is this: we'll rustle around and gather up whatever
pickins we've overlooked in the staterooms, and shove for shore and hide
the truck. Then we'll wait. Now I say it ain't a-goin' to be more'n two
hours befo' this wrack breaks up and washes off down the river. See?
He'll be drownded, and won't have nobody to blame for it but his own
self. I reckon that's a considerble sight better 'n killin' of him. I'm
unfavorable to killin' a man as long as you can git aroun' it; it ain't
good sense, it ain't good morals. Ain't I right?"
"Yes, I reck'n you are. But s'pose she DON'T break up and wash off?"
"Well, we can wait the two hours anyway and see, can't we?"
"All right, then; come along."
So they started, and I lit out, all in a cold sweat, and scrambled
forward. It was dark as pitch there; but I said, in a kind of a coarse
whisper, "Jim !" and he answered up, right at my elbow, with a sort of a
moan, and I says:
"Quick, Jim, it ain't no time for fooling around and moaning; there's a
gang of murderers in yonder, and if we don't hunt up their boat and set
her drifting down the river so these fellows can't get away from the
wreck there's one of 'em going to be in a bad fix. But if we find their
boat we can put ALL of 'em in a bad fix--for the sheriff 'll get 'em.
Quick--hurry! I'll hunt the labboard side, you hunt the stabboard.
You start at the raft, and--"
"Oh, my lordy, lordy! RAF'? Dey ain' no raf' no mo'; she done broke
loose en gone I--en here we is!"
WELL, I catched my breath and most fainted. Shut up on a wreck with such
a gang as that! But it warn't no time to be sentimentering. We'd GOT to
find that boat now--had to have it for ourselves. So we went a-quaking
and shaking down the stabboard side, and slow work it was, too--seemed a
week before we got to the stern. No sign of a boat. Jim said he didn't
believe he could go any further--so scared he hadn't hardly any strength
left, he said. But I said, come on, if we get left on this wreck we are
in a fix, sure. So on we prowled again. We struck for the stern of the
texas, and found it, and then scrabbled along forwards on the skylight,
hanging on from shutter to shutter, for the edge of the skylight was in
the water. When we got pretty close to the cross-hall door there was the
skiff, sure enough! I could just barely see her. I felt ever so
thankful. In another second I would a been aboard of her, but just then
the door opened. One of the men stuck his head out only about a couple
of foot from me, and I thought I was gone; but he jerked it in again, and
"Heave that blame lantern out o' sight, Bill!"
He flung a bag of something into the boat, and then got in himself and
set down. It was Packard. Then Bill HE come out and got in. Packard
says, in a low voice:
"All ready--shove off!"
I couldn't hardly hang on to the shutters, I was so weak. But Bill says:
"Hold on--'d you go through him?"
"No. Didn't you?"
"No. So he's got his share o' the cash yet."
"Well, then, come along; no use to take truck and leave money."
"Say, won't he suspicion what we're up to?"
"Maybe he won't. But we got to have it anyway. Come along."
So they got out and went in.
The door slammed to because it was on the careened side; and in a half
second I was in the boat, and Jim come tumbling after me. I out with my
knife and cut the rope, and away we went!
We didn't touch an oar, and we didn't speak nor whisper, nor hardly even
breathe. We went gliding swift along, dead silent, past the tip of the
paddle-box, and past the stern; then in a second or two more we was a
hundred yards below the wreck, and the darkness soaked her up, every last
sign of her, and we was safe, and knowed it.
When we was three or four hundred yards down-stream we see the lantern
show like a little spark at the texas door for a second, and we knowed by
that that the rascals had missed their boat, and was beginning to
understand that they was in just as much trouble now as Jim Turner was.
Then Jim manned the oars, and we took out after our raft. Now was the
first time that I begun to worry about the men--I reckon I hadn't had
time to before. I begun to think how dreadful it was, even for
murderers, to be in such a fix. I says to myself, there ain't no telling
but I might come to be a murderer myself yet, and then how would I like
it? So says I to Jim:
"The first light we see we'll land a hundred yards below it or above it,
in a place where it's a good hiding-place for you and the skiff, and then
I'll go and fix up some kind of a yarn, and get somebody to go for that
gang and get them out of their scrape, so they can be hung when their
But that idea was a failure; for pretty soon it begun to storm again, and
this time worse than ever. The rain poured down, and never a light
showed; everybody in bed, I reckon. We boomed along down the river,
watching for lights and watching for our raft. After a long time the
rain let up, but the clouds stayed, and the lightning kept whimpering,
and by and by a flash showed us a black thing ahead, floating, and we
made for it.
It was the raft, and mighty glad was we to get aboard of it again. We
seen a light now away down to the right, on shore. So I said I would go
for it. The skiff was half full of plunder which that gang had stole
there on the wreck. We hustled it on to the raft in a pile, and I told
Jim to float along down, and show a light when he judged he had gone
about two mile, and keep it burning till I come; then I manned my oars
and shoved for the light. As I got down towards it three or four more
showed--up on a hillside. It was a village. I closed in above the shore
light, and laid on my oars and floated. As I went by I see it was a
lantern hanging on the jackstaff of a double-hull ferryboat. I skimmed
around for the watchman, a-wondering whereabouts he slept; and by and by
I found him roosting on the bitts forward, with his head down between his
knees. I gave his shoulder two or three little shoves, and begun to cry.
He stirred up in a kind of a startlish way; but when he see it was only
me he took a good gap and stretch, and then he says:
"Hello, what's up? Don't cry, bub. What's the trouble?"
"Pap, and mam, and sis, and--"
Then I broke down. He says:
"Oh, dang it now, DON'T take on so; we all has to have our troubles, and
this 'n 'll come out all right. What's the matter with 'em?"
"They're--they're--are you the watchman of the boat?"
"Yes," he says, kind of pretty-well-satisfied like. "I'm the captain and
the owner and the mate and the pilot and watchman and head deck-hand; and
sometimes I'm the freight and passengers. I ain't as rich as old Jim
Hornback, and I can't be so blame' generous and good to Tom, Dick, and
Harry as what he is, and slam around money the way he does; but I've told
him a many a time 't I wouldn't trade places with him; for, says I, a
sailor's life's the life for me, and I'm derned if I'D live two mile out
o' town, where there ain't nothing ever goin' on, not for all his
spondulicks and as much more on top of it. Says I--"
I broke in and says:
"They're in an awful peck of trouble, and--"
"Why, pap and mam and sis and Miss Hooker; and if you'd take your
ferryboat and go up there--"
"Up where? Where are they?"
"On the wreck."
"Why, there ain't but one."
"What, you don't mean the Walter Scott?"
"Good land! what are they doin' THERE, for gracious sakes?"
"Well, they didn't go there a-purpose."
"I bet they didn't! Why, great goodness, there ain't no chance for 'em
if they don't git off mighty quick! Why, how in the nation did they ever
git into such a scrape?"
"Easy enough. Miss Hooker was a-visiting up there to the town--"
"Yes, Booth's Landing--go on."
"She was a-visiting there at Booth's Landing, and just in the edge of the
evening she started over with her nigger woman in the horse-ferry to stay
all night at her friend's house, Miss What-you-may-call-her I disremember
her name--and they lost their steering-oar, and swung around and went
a-floating down, stern first, about two mile, and saddle-baggsed on the
wreck, and the ferryman and the nigger woman and the horses was all lost,
but Miss Hooker she made a grab and got aboard the wreck. Well, about an
hour after dark we come along down in our trading-scow, and it was so
dark we didn't notice the wreck till we was right on it; and so WE
saddle-baggsed; but all of us was saved but Bill Whipple--and oh, he WAS
the best cretur !--I most wish 't it had been me, I do."
"My George! It's the beatenest thing I ever struck. And THEN what did
you all do?"
"Well, we hollered and took on, but it's so wide there we couldn't make
nobody hear. So pap said somebody got to get ashore and get help
somehow. I was the only one that could swim, so I made a dash for it, and
Miss Hooker she said if I didn't strike help sooner, come here and hunt
up her uncle, and he'd fix the thing. I made the land about a mile
below, and been fooling along ever since, trying to get people to do
something, but they said, 'What, in such a night and such a current?
There ain't no sense in it; go for the steam ferry.' Now if you'll go
"By Jackson, I'd LIKE to, and, blame it, I don't know but I will; but who
in the dingnation's a-going' to PAY for it? Do you reckon your pap--"
"Why THAT'S all right. Miss Hooker she tole me, PARTICULAR, that her
"Great guns! is HE her uncle? Looky here, you break for that light over
yonder-way, and turn out west when you git there, and about a quarter of
a mile out you'll come to the tavern; tell 'em to dart you out to Jim
Hornback's, and he'll foot the bill. And don't you fool around any,
because he'll want to know the news. Tell him I'll have his niece all
safe before he can get to town. Hump yourself, now; I'm a-going up
around the corner here to roust out my engineer."
I struck for the light, but as soon as he turned the corner I went back
and got into my skiff and bailed her out, and then pulled up shore in the
easy water about six hundred yards, and tucked myself in among some
woodboats; for I couldn't rest easy till I could see the ferryboat start.
But take it all around, I was feeling ruther comfortable on accounts of
taking all this trouble for that gang, for not many would a done it. I
wished the widow knowed about it. I judged she would be proud of me for
helping these rapscallions, because rapscallions and dead beats is the
kind the widow and good people takes the most interest in.
Well, before long here comes the wreck, dim and dusky, sliding along
down! A kind of cold shiver went through me, and then I struck out for
her. She was very deep, and I see in a minute there warn't much chance
for anybody being alive in her. I pulled all around her and hollered a
little, but there wasn't any answer; all dead still. I felt a little bit
heavy-hearted about the gang, but not much, for I reckoned if they could
stand it I could.
Then here comes the ferryboat; so I shoved for the middle of the river on
a long down-stream slant; and when I judged I was out of eye-reach I laid
on my oars, and looked back and see her go and smell around the wreck for
Miss Hooker's remainders, because the captain would know her uncle
Hornback would want them; and then pretty soon the ferryboat give it up
and went for the shore, and I laid into my work and went a-booming down
It did seem a powerful long time before Jim's light showed up; and when
it did show it looked like it was a thousand mile off. By the time I got
there the sky was beginning to get a little gray in the east; so we
struck for an island, and hid the raft, and sunk the skiff, and turned in
and slept like dead people.
BY and by, when we got up, we turned over the truck the gang had stole
off of the wreck, and found boots, and blankets, and clothes, and all
sorts of other things, and a lot of books, and a spyglass, and three
boxes of seegars. We hadn't ever been this rich before in neither of our
lives. The seegars was prime. We laid off all the afternoon in the
woods talking, and me reading the books, and having a general good time.
I told Jim all about what happened inside the wreck and at the ferryboat,
and I said these kinds of things was adventures; but he said he didn't
want no more adventures. He said that when I went in the texas and he
crawled back to get on the raft and found her gone he nearly died,
because he judged it was all up with HIM anyway it could be fixed; for if
he didn't get saved he would get drownded; and if he did get saved,
whoever saved him would send him back home so as to get the reward, and
then Miss Watson would sell him South, sure. Well, he was right; he was
most always right; he had an uncommon level head for a nigger.
I read considerable to Jim about kings and dukes and earls and such, and
how gaudy they dressed, and how much style they put on, and called each
other your majesty, and your grace, and your lordship, and so on, 'stead
of mister; and Jim's eyes bugged out, and he was interested. He says:
"I didn' know dey was so many un um. I hain't hearn 'bout none un um,
skasely, but ole King Sollermun, onless you counts dem kings dat's in a
pack er k'yards. How much do a king git?"
"Get?" I says; "why, they get a thousand dollars a month if they want
it; they can have just as much as they want; everything belongs to them."
"AIN' dat gay? En what dey got to do, Huck?"
"THEY don't do nothing! Why, how you talk! They just set around."
"No; is dat so?"
"Of course it is. They just set around--except, maybe, when there's a
war; then they go to the war. But other times they just lazy around; or
go hawking--just hawking and sp--Sh!--d' you hear a noise?"
We skipped out and looked; but it warn't nothing but the flutter of a
steamboat's wheel away down, coming around the point; so we come back.
"Yes," says I, "and other times, when things is dull, they fuss with the
parlyment; and if everybody don't go just so he whacks their heads off.
But mostly they hang round the harem."
"Roun' de which?"
"What's de harem?"
"The place where he keeps his wives. Don't you know about the harem?
Solomon had one; he had about a million wives."
"Why, yes, dat's so; I--I'd done forgot it. A harem's a bo'd'n-house, I
reck'n. Mos' likely dey has rackety times in de nussery. En I reck'n de
wives quarrels considable; en dat 'crease de racket. Yit dey say
Sollermun de wises' man dat ever live'. I doan' take no stock in dat.
Bekase why: would a wise man want to live in de mids' er sich a
blim-blammin' all de time? No--'deed he wouldn't. A wise man 'ud take
en buil' a biler-factry; en den he could shet DOWN de biler-factry when
he want to res'."
"Well, but he WAS the wisest man, anyway; because the widow she told me
so, her own self."
"I doan k'yer what de widder say, he WARN'T no wise man nuther. He had
some er de dad-fetchedes' ways I ever see. Does you know 'bout dat chile
dat he 'uz gwyne to chop in two?"
"Yes, the widow told me all about it."
"WELL, den! Warn' dat de beatenes' notion in de worl'? You jes' take en
look at it a minute. Dah's de stump, dah--dat's one er de women; heah's
you--dat's de yuther one; I's Sollermun; en dish yer dollar bill's de
chile. Bofe un you claims it. What does I do? Does I shin aroun'
mongs' de neighbors en fine out which un you de bill DO b'long to, en
han' it over to de right one, all safe en soun', de way dat anybody dat
had any gumption would? No; I take en whack de bill in TWO, en give half
un it to you, en de yuther half to de yuther woman. Dat's de way
Sollermun was gwyne to do wid de chile. Now I want to ast you: what's
de use er dat half a bill?--can't buy noth'n wid it. En what use is a
half a chile? I wouldn' give a dern for a million un um."
"But hang it, Jim, you've clean missed the point--blame it, you've missed
it a thousand mile."
"Who? Me? Go 'long. Doan' talk to me 'bout yo' pints. I reck'n I
knows sense when I sees it; en dey ain' no sense in sich doin's as dat.
De 'spute warn't 'bout a half a chile, de 'spute was 'bout a whole chile;
en de man dat think he kin settle a 'spute 'bout a whole chile wid a half
a chile doan' know enough to come in out'n de rain. Doan' talk to me
'bout Sollermun, Huck, I knows him by de back."
"But I tell you you don't get the point."
"Blame de point! I reck'n I knows what I knows. En mine you, de REAL
pint is down furder--it's down deeper. It lays in de way Sollermun was
raised. You take a man dat's got on'y one or two chillen; is dat man
gwyne to be waseful o' chillen? No, he ain't; he can't 'ford it. HE
know how to value 'em. But you take a man dat's got 'bout five million
chillen runnin' roun' de house, en it's diffunt. HE as soon chop a chile
in two as a cat. Dey's plenty mo'. A chile er two, mo' er less, warn't
no consekens to Sollermun, dad fatch him!"
I never see such a nigger. If he got a notion in his head once, there
warn't no getting it out again. He was the most down on Solomon of any
nigger I ever see. So I went to talking about other kings, and let
Solomon slide. I told about Louis Sixteenth that got his head cut off in
France long time ago; and about his little boy the dolphin, that would a
been a king, but they took and shut him up in jail, and some say he died
"Po' little chap."
"But some says he got out and got away, and come to America."
"Dat's good! But he'll be pooty lonesome--dey ain' no kings here, is
"Den he cain't git no situation. What he gwyne to do?"
"Well, I don't know. Some of them gets on the police, and some of them
learns people how to talk French."
"Why, Huck, doan' de French people talk de same way we does?"
"NO, Jim; you couldn't understand a word they said--not a single word."
"Well, now, I be ding-busted! How do dat come?"
"I don't know; but it's so. I got some of their jabber out of a book.
S'pose a man was to come to you and say Polly-voo-franzy--what would you
"I wouldn' think nuff'n; I'd take en bust him over de head--dat is, if he
warn't white. I wouldn't 'low no nigger to call me dat."
"Shucks, it ain't calling you anything. It's only saying, do you know
how to talk French?"
"Well, den, why couldn't he SAY it?"
"Why, he IS a-saying it. That's a Frenchman's WAY of saying it."
"Well, it's a blame ridicklous way, en I doan' want to hear no mo' 'bout
it. Dey ain' no sense in it."
"Looky here, Jim; does a cat talk like we do?"
"No, a cat don't."
"Well, does a cow?"
"No, a cow don't, nuther."
"Does a cat talk like a cow, or a cow talk like a cat?"
"No, dey don't."
"It's natural and right for 'em to talk different from each other, ain't
"And ain't it natural and right for a cat and a cow to talk different
"Why, mos' sholy it is."
"Well, then, why ain't it natural and right for a FRENCHMAN to talk
different from us? You answer me that."
"Is a cat a man, Huck?"
"Well, den, dey ain't no sense in a cat talkin' like a man. Is a cow a
man?--er is a cow a cat?"
"No, she ain't either of them."
"Well, den, she ain't got no business to talk like either one er the
yuther of 'em. Is a Frenchman a man?"
"WELL, den! Dad blame it, why doan' he TALK like a man? You answer me
I see it warn't no use wasting words--you can't learn a nigger to argue.
So I quit.
WE judged that three nights more would fetch us to Cairo, at the bottom
of Illinois, where the Ohio River comes in, and that was what we was
after. We would sell the raft and get on a steamboat and go way up the
Ohio amongst the free States, and then be out of trouble.
Well, the second night a fog begun to come on, and we made for a towhead
to tie to, for it wouldn't do to try to run in a fog; but when I paddled
ahead in the canoe, with the line to make fast, there warn't anything but
little saplings to tie to. I passed the line around one of them right on
the edge of the cut bank, but there was a stiff current, and the raft
come booming down so lively she tore it out by the roots and away she
went. I see the fog closing down, and it made me so sick and scared I
couldn't budge for most a half a minute it seemed to me--and then there
warn't no raft in sight; you couldn't see twenty yards. I jumped into
the canoe and run back to the stern, and grabbed the paddle and set her
back a stroke. But she didn't come. I was in such a hurry I hadn't
untied her. I got up and tried to untie her, but I was so excited my
hands shook so I couldn't hardly do anything with them.
As soon as I got started I took out after the raft, hot and heavy, right
down the towhead. That was all right as far as it went, but the towhead
warn't sixty yards long, and the minute I flew by the foot of it I shot
out into the solid white fog, and hadn't no more idea which way I was
going than a dead man.
Thinks I, it won't do to paddle; first I know I'll run into the bank or a
towhead or something; I got to set still and float, and yet it's mighty
fidgety business to have to hold your hands still at such a time. I
whooped and listened. Away down there somewheres I hears a small whoop,
and up comes my spirits. I went tearing after it, listening sharp to
hear it again. The next time it come I see I warn't heading for it, but
heading away to the right of it. And the next time I was heading away to
the left of it--and not gaining on it much either, for I was flying
around, this way and that and t'other, but it was going straight ahead
all the time.
I did wish the fool would think to beat a tin pan, and beat it all the
time, but he never did, and it was the still places between the whoops
that was making the trouble for me. Well, I fought along, and directly I
hears the whoop BEHIND me. I was tangled good now. That was somebody
else's whoop, or else I was turned around.
I throwed the paddle down. I heard the whoop again; it was behind me
yet, but in a different place; it kept coming, and kept changing its
place, and I kept answering, till by and by it was in front of me again,
and I knowed the current had swung the canoe's head down-stream, and I
was all right if that was Jim and not some other raftsman hollering. I
couldn't tell nothing about voices in a fog, for nothing don't look
natural nor sound natural in a fog.
The whooping went on, and in about a minute I come a-booming down on a
cut bank with smoky ghosts of big trees on it, and the current throwed me
off to the left and shot by, amongst a lot of snags that fairly roared,
the currrent was tearing by them so swift.
In another second or two it was solid white and still again. I set
perfectly still then, listening to my heart thump, and I reckon I didn't
draw a breath while it thumped a hundred.
I just give up then. I knowed what the matter was. That cut bank was an
island, and Jim had gone down t'other side of it. It warn't no towhead
that you could float by in ten minutes. It had the big timber of a
regular island; it might be five or six miles long and more than half a
I kept quiet, with my ears cocked, about fifteen minutes, I reckon. I
was floating along, of course, four or five miles an hour; but you don't
ever think of that. No, you FEEL like you are laying dead still on the
water; and if a little glimpse of a snag slips by you don't think to
yourself how fast YOU'RE going, but you catch your breath and think, my!
how that snag's tearing along. If you think it ain't dismal and lonesome
out in a fog that way by yourself in the night, you try it once--you'll
Next, for about a half an hour, I whoops now and then; at last I hears
the answer a long ways off, and tries to follow it, but I couldn't do it,
and directly I judged I'd got into a nest of towheads, for I had little
dim glimpses of them on both sides of me--sometimes just a narrow channel
between, and some that I couldn't see I knowed was there because I'd hear
the wash of the current against the old dead brush and trash that hung
over the banks. Well, I warn't long loosing the whoops down amongst the
towheads; and I only tried to chase them a little while, anyway, because
it was worse than chasing a Jack-o'-lantern. You never knowed a sound
dodge around so, and swap places so quick and so much.
I had to claw away from the bank pretty lively four or five times, to
keep from knocking the islands out of the river; and so I judged the raft
must be butting into the bank every now and then, or else it would get
further ahead and clear out of hearing--it was floating a little faster
than what I was.
Well, I seemed to be in the open river again by and by, but I couldn't
hear no sign of a whoop nowheres. I reckoned Jim had fetched up on a
snag, maybe, and it was all up with him. I was good and tired, so I laid
down in the canoe and said I wouldn't bother no more. I didn't want to
go to sleep, of course; but I was so sleepy I couldn't help it; so I
thought I would take jest one little cat-nap.
But I reckon it was more than a cat-nap, for when I waked up the stars
was shining bright, the fog was all gone, and I was spinning down a big
bend stern first. First I didn't know where I was; I thought I was
dreaming; and when things began to come back to me they seemed to come up
dim out of last week.
It was a monstrous big river here, with the tallest and the thickest kind
of timber on both banks; just a solid wall, as well as I could see by the
stars. I looked away down-stream, and seen a black speck on the water.
I took after it; but when I got to it it warn't nothing but a couple of
sawlogs made fast together. Then I see another speck, and chased that;
then another, and this time I was right. It was the raft.
When I got to it Jim was setting there with his head down between his
knees, asleep, with his right arm hanging over the steering-oar. The
other oar was smashed off, and the raft was littered up with leaves and
branches and dirt. So she'd had a rough time.
I made fast and laid down under Jim's nose on the raft, and began to gap,
and stretch my fists out against Jim, and says:
"Hello, Jim, have I been asleep? Why didn't you stir me up?"
"Goodness gracious, is dat you, Huck? En you ain' dead--you ain'
drownded--you's back agin? It's too good for true, honey, it's too
good for true. Lemme look at you chile, lemme feel o' you. No, you ain'
dead! you's back agin, 'live en soun', jis de same ole Huck--de same ole
Huck, thanks to goodness!"
"What's the matter with you, Jim? You been a-drinking?"
"Drinkin'? Has I ben a-drinkin'? Has I had a chance to be a-drinkin'?"
"Well, then, what makes you talk so wild?"
"How does I talk wild?"
"HOW? Why, hain't you been talking about my coming back, and all that
stuff, as if I'd been gone away?"
"Huck--Huck Finn, you look me in de eye; look me in de eye. HAIN'T you
ben gone away?"
"Gone away? Why, what in the nation do you mean? I hain't been gone
anywheres. Where would I go to?"
"Well, looky here, boss, dey's sumf'n wrong, dey is. Is I ME, or who IS
I? Is I heah, or whah IS I? Now dat's what I wants to know."
"Well, I think you're here, plain enough, but I think you're a
tangle-headed old fool, Jim."
"I is, is I? Well, you answer me dis: Didn't you tote out de line in de
canoe fer to make fas' to de tow-head?"
"No, I didn't. What tow-head? I hain't see no tow-head."
"You hain't seen no towhead? Looky here, didn't de line pull loose en de
raf' go a-hummin' down de river, en leave you en de canoe behine in de
"Why, de fog!--de fog dat's been aroun' all night. En didn't you whoop,
en didn't I whoop, tell we got mix' up in de islands en one un us got
los' en t'other one was jis' as good as los', 'kase he didn' know whah he
wuz? En didn't I bust up agin a lot er dem islands en have a turrible
time en mos' git drownded? Now ain' dat so, boss--ain't it so? You
answer me dat."
"Well, this is too many for me, Jim. I hain't seen no fog, nor no
islands, nor no troubles, nor nothing. I been setting here talking with
you all night till you went to sleep about ten minutes ago, and I reckon
I done the same. You couldn't a got drunk in that time, so of course
you've been dreaming."
"Dad fetch it, how is I gwyne to dream all dat in ten minutes?"
"Well, hang it all, you did dream it, because there didn't any of it
"But, Huck, it's all jis' as plain to me as--"
"It don't make no difference how plain it is; there ain't nothing in it.
I know, because I've been here all the time."
Jim didn't say nothing for about five minutes, but set there studying
over it. Then he says:
"Well, den, I reck'n I did dream it, Huck; but dog my cats ef it ain't de
powerfullest dream I ever see. En I hain't ever had no dream b'fo' dat's
tired me like dis one."
"Oh, well, that's all right, because a dream does tire a body like
everything sometimes. But this one was a staving dream; tell me all
about it, Jim."
So Jim went to work and told me the whole thing right through, just as it
happened, only he painted it up considerable. Then he said he must start
in and "'terpret" it, because it was sent for a warning. He said the
first towhead stood for a man that would try to do us some good, but the
current was another man that would get us away from him. The whoops was
warnings that would come to us every now and then, and if we didn't try
hard to make out to understand them they'd just take us into bad luck,
'stead of keeping us out of it. The lot of towheads was troubles we was
going to get into with quarrelsome people and all kinds of mean folks,
but if we minded our business and didn't talk back and aggravate them, we
would pull through and get out of the fog and into the big clear river,
which was the free States, and wouldn't have no more trouble.
It had clouded up pretty dark just after I got on to the raft, but it was
clearing up again now.
"Oh, well, that's all interpreted well enough as far as it goes, Jim," I
says; "but what does THESE things stand for?"
It was the leaves and rubbish on the raft and the smashed oar. You could
see them first-rate now.
Jim looked at the trash, and then looked at me, and back at the trash
again. He had got the dream fixed so strong in his head that he couldn't
seem to shake it loose and get the facts back into its place again right
away. But when he did get the thing straightened around he looked at me
steady without ever smiling, and says:
"What do dey stan' for? I'se gwyne to tell you. When I got all wore out
wid work, en wid de callin' for you, en went to sleep, my heart wuz mos'
broke bekase you wuz los', en I didn' k'yer no' mo' what become er me en
de raf'. En when I wake up en fine you back agin, all safe en soun', de
tears come, en I could a got down on my knees en kiss yo' foot, I's so
thankful. En all you wuz thinkin' 'bout wuz how you could make a fool uv
ole Jim wid a lie. Dat truck dah is TRASH; en trash is what people is
dat puts dirt on de head er dey fren's en makes 'em ashamed."
Then he got up slow and walked to the wigwam, and went in there without
saying anything but that. But that was enough. It made me feel so mean
I could almost kissed HIS foot to get him to take it back.
It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up to go and humble
myself to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn't ever sorry for it
afterwards, neither. I didn't do him no more mean tricks, and I wouldn't
done that one if I'd a knowed it would make him feel that way.
WE slept most all day, and started out at night, a little ways behind a
monstrous long raft that was as long going by as a procession. She had
four long sweeps at each end, so we judged she carried as many as thirty
men, likely. She had five big wigwams aboard, wide apart, and an open
camp fire in the middle, and a tall flag-pole at each end. There was a
power of style about her. It AMOUNTED to something being a raftsman on
such a craft as that.
We went drifting down into a big bend, and the night clouded up and got
hot. The river was very wide, and was walled with solid timber on both
sides; you couldn't see a break in it hardly ever, or a light. We talked
about Cairo, and wondered whether we would know it when we got to it. I
said likely we wouldn't, because I had heard say there warn't but about a
dozen houses there, and if they didn't happen to have them lit up, how
was we going to know we was passing a town? Jim said if the two big
rivers joined together there, that would show. But I said maybe we might
think we was passing the foot of an island and coming into the same old
river again. That disturbed Jim--and me too. So the question was, what
to do? I said, paddle ashore the first time a light showed, and tell
them pap was behind, coming along with a trading-scow, and was a green
hand at the business, and wanted to know how far it was to Cairo. Jim
thought it was a good idea, so we took a smoke on it and waited.
There warn't nothing to do now but to look out sharp for the town, and
not pass it without seeing it. He said he'd be mighty sure to see it,
because he'd be a free man the minute he seen it, but if he missed it
he'd be in a slave country again and no more show for freedom. Every
little while he jumps up and says:
"Dah she is?"
But it warn't. It was Jack-o'-lanterns, or lightning bugs; so he set
down again, and went to watching, same as before. Jim said it made him
all over trembly and feverish to be so close to freedom. Well, I can
tell you it made me all over trembly and feverish, too, to hear him,
because I begun to get it through my head that he WAS most free--and who
was to blame for it? Why, ME. I couldn't get that out of my conscience,
no how nor no way. It got to troubling me so I couldn't rest; I couldn't
stay still in one place. It hadn't ever come home to me before, what
this thing was that I was doing. But now it did; and it stayed with me,
and scorched me more and more. I tried to make out to myself that I
warn't to blame, because I didn't run Jim off from his rightful owner;
but it warn't no use, conscience up and says, every time, "But you knowed
he was running for his freedom, and you could a paddled ashore and told
somebody." That was so--I couldn't get around that noway. That was
where it pinched. Conscience says to me, "What had poor Miss Watson done
to you that you could see her nigger go off right under your eyes and
never say one single word? What did that poor old woman do to you that
you could treat her so mean? Why, she tried to learn you your book, she
tried to learn you your manners, she tried to be good to you every way
she knowed how. THAT'S what she done."
I got to feeling so mean and so miserable I most wished I was dead. I
fidgeted up and down the raft, abusing myself to myself, and Jim was
fidgeting up and down past me. We neither of us could keep still. Every
time he danced around and says, "Dah's Cairo!" it went through me like a
shot, and I thought if it WAS Cairo I reckoned I would die of
Jim talked out loud all the time while I was talking to myself. He was
saying how the first thing he would do when he got to a free State he
would go to saving up money and never spend a single cent, and when he
got enough he would buy his wife, which was owned on a farm close to
where Miss Watson lived; and then they would both work to buy the two
children, and if their master wouldn't sell them, they'd get an
Ab'litionist to go and steal them.
It most froze me to hear such talk. He wouldn't ever dared to talk such
talk in his life before. Just see what a difference it made in him the
minute he judged he was about free. It was according to the old saying,
"Give a nigger an inch and he'll take an ell." Thinks I, this is what
comes of my not thinking. Here was this nigger, which I had as good as
helped to run away, coming right out flat-footed and saying he would
steal his children--children that belonged to a man I didn't even know; a
man that hadn't ever done me no harm.
I was sorry to hear Jim say that, it was such a lowering of him. My
conscience got to stirring me up hotter than ever, until at last I says
to it, "Let up on me--it ain't too late yet--I'll paddle ashore at the
first light and tell." I felt easy and happy and light as a feather
right off. All my troubles was gone. I went to looking out sharp for a
light, and sort of singing to myself. By and by one showed. Jim sings
"We's safe, Huck, we's safe! Jump up and crack yo' heels! Dat's de good
ole Cairo at las', I jis knows it!"
"I'll take the canoe and go and see, Jim. It mightn't be, you know."
He jumped and got the canoe ready, and put his old coat in the bottom for
me to set on, and give me the paddle; and as I shoved off, he says:
"Pooty soon I'll be a-shout'n' for joy, en I'll say, it's all on accounts
o' Huck; I's a free man, en I couldn't ever ben free ef it hadn' ben for
Huck; Huck done it. Jim won't ever forgit you, Huck; you's de bes' fren'
Jim's ever had; en you's de ONLY fren' ole Jim's got now."
I was paddling off, all in a sweat to tell on him; but when he says this,
it seemed to kind of take the tuck all out of me. I went along slow
then, and I warn't right down certain whether I was glad I started or
whether I warn't. When I was fifty yards off, Jim says:
"Dah you goes, de ole true Huck; de on'y white genlman dat ever kep' his
promise to ole Jim."
Well, I just felt sick. But I says, I GOT to do it--I can't get OUT of
it. Right then along comes a skiff with two men in it with guns, and
they stopped and I stopped. One of them says:
"What's that yonder?"
"A piece of a raft," I says.
"Do you belong on it?"
"Any men on it?"
"Only one, sir."
"Well, there's five niggers run off to-night up yonder, above the head of
the bend. Is your man white or black?"
I didn't answer up prompt. I tried to, but the words wouldn't come. I
tried for a second or two to brace up and out with it, but I warn't man
enough--hadn't the spunk of a rabbit. I see I was weakening; so I just
give up trying, and up and says:
"I reckon we'll go and see for ourselves."
"I wish you would," says I, "because it's pap that's there, and maybe
you'd help me tow the raft ashore where the light is. He's sick--and so
is mam and Mary Ann."
"Oh, the devil! we're in a hurry, boy. But I s'pose we've got to. Come,
buckle to your paddle, and let's get along."
I buckled to my paddle and they laid to their oars. When we had made a
stroke or two, I says:
"Pap'll be mighty much obleeged to you, I can tell you. Everybody goes
away when I want them to help me tow the raft ashore, and I can't do it
"Well, that's infernal mean. Odd, too. Say, boy, what's the matter with
"It's the--a--the--well, it ain't anything much."
They stopped pulling. It warn't but a mighty little ways to the raft
now. One says:
"Boy, that's a lie. What IS the matter with your pap? Answer up square
now, and it'll be the better for you."
"I will, sir, I will, honest--but don't leave us, please. It's the--the
--Gentlemen, if you'll only pull ahead, and let me heave you the
headline, you won't have to come a-near the raft--please do."
"Set her back, John, set her back!" says one. They backed water. "Keep
away, boy--keep to looard. Confound it, I just expect the wind has
blowed it to us. Your pap's got the small-pox, and you know it precious
well. Why didn't you come out and say so? Do you want to spread it all
"Well," says I, a-blubbering, "I've told everybody before, and they just
went away and left us."
"Poor devil, there's something in that. We are right down sorry for you,
but we--well, hang it, we don't want the small-pox, you see. Look here,
I'll tell you what to do. Don't you try to land by yourself, or you'll
smash everything to pieces. You float along down about twenty miles, and
you'll come to a town on the left-hand side of the river. It will be
long after sun-up then, and when you ask for help you tell them your
folks are all down with chills and fever. Don't be a fool again, and let
people guess what is the matter. Now we're trying to do you a kindness;
so you just put twenty miles between us, that's a good boy. It wouldn't
do any good to land yonder where the light is--it's only a wood-yard.
Say, I reckon your father's poor, and I'm bound to say he's in pretty
hard luck. Here, I'll put a twenty-dollar gold piece on this board, and
you get it when it floats by. I feel mighty mean to leave you; but my
kingdom! it won't do to fool with small-pox, don't you see?"
"Hold on, Parker," says the other man, "here's a twenty to put on the
board for me. Good-bye, boy; you do as Mr. Parker told you, and you'll
be all right."
"That's so, my boy--good-bye, good-bye. If you see any runaway niggers
you get help and nab them, and you can make some money by it."
"Good-bye, sir," says I; "I won't let no runaway niggers get by me if I
can help it."
They went off and I got aboard the raft, feeling bad and low, because I
knowed very well I had done wrong, and I see it warn't no use for me to
try to learn to do right; a body that don't get STARTED right when he's
little ain't got no show--when the pinch comes there ain't nothing to
back him up and keep him to his work, and so he gets beat. Then I
thought a minute, and says to myself, hold on; s'pose you'd a done right
and give Jim up, would you felt better than what you do now? No, says I,
I'd feel bad--I'd feel just the same way I do now. Well, then, says I,
what's the use you learning to do right when it's troublesome to do right
and ain't no trouble to do wrong, and the wages is just the same? I was
stuck. I couldn't answer that. So I reckoned I wouldn't bother no more
about it, but after this always do whichever come handiest at the time.
I went into the wigwam; Jim warn't there. I looked all around; he warn't
anywhere. I says:
"Here I is, Huck. Is dey out o' sight yit? Don't talk loud."
He was in the river under the stern oar, with just his nose out. I told
him they were out of sight, so he come aboard. He says:
"I was a-listenin' to all de talk, en I slips into de river en was gwyne
to shove for sho' if dey come aboard. Den I was gwyne to swim to de raf'
agin when dey was gone. But lawsy, how you did fool 'em, Huck! Dat WUZ
de smartes' dodge! I tell you, chile, I'spec it save' ole Jim--ole Jim
ain't going to forgit you for dat, honey."
Then we talked about the money. It was a pretty good raise--twenty
dollars apiece. Jim said we could take deck passage on a steamboat now,
and the money would last us as far as we wanted to go in the free States.
He said twenty mile more warn't far for the raft to go, but he wished we
was already there.
Towards daybreak we tied up, and Jim was mighty particular about hiding
the raft good. Then he worked all day fixing things in bundles, and
getting all ready to quit rafting.
That night about ten we hove in sight of the lights of a town away down
in a left-hand bend.
I went off in the canoe to ask about it. Pretty soon I found a man out
in the river with a skiff, setting a trot-line. I ranged up and says:
"Mister, is that town Cairo?"
"Cairo? no. You must be a blame' fool."
"What town is it, mister?"
"If you want to know, go and find out. If you stay here botherin' around
me for about a half a minute longer you'll get something you won't want."
I paddled to the raft. Jim was awful disappointed, but I said never
mind, Cairo would be the next place, I reckoned.
We passed another town before daylight, and I was going out again; but it
was high ground, so I didn't go. No high ground about Cairo, Jim said.
I had forgot it. We laid up for the day on a towhead tolerable close to
the left-hand bank. I begun to suspicion something. So did Jim. I
"Maybe we went by Cairo in the fog that night."
"Doan' le's talk about it, Huck. Po' niggers can't have no luck. I
awluz 'spected dat rattlesnake-skin warn't done wid its work."
"I wish I'd never seen that snake-skin, Jim--I do wish I'd never laid
eyes on it."
"It ain't yo' fault, Huck; you didn' know. Don't you blame yo'self 'bout
When it was daylight, here was the clear Ohio water inshore, sure enough,
and outside was the old regular Muddy! So it was all up with Cairo.
We talked it all over. It wouldn't do to take to the shore; we couldn't
take the raft up the stream, of course. There warn't no way but to wait
for dark, and start back in the canoe and take the chances. So we slept
all day amongst the cottonwood thicket, so as to be fresh for the work,
and when we went back to the raft about dark the canoe was gone!
We didn't say a word for a good while. There warn't anything to say. We
both knowed well enough it was some more work of the rattlesnake-skin; so
what was the use to talk about it? It would only look like we was
finding fault, and that would be bound to fetch more bad luck--and keep
on fetching it, too, till we knowed enough to keep still.
By and by we talked about what we better do, and found there warn't no
way but just to go along down with the raft till we got a chance to buy a
canoe to go back in. We warn't going to borrow it when there warn't
anybody around, the way pap would do, for that might set people after us.
So we shoved out after dark on the raft.
Anybody that don't believe yet that it's foolishness to handle a
snake-skin, after all that that snake-skin done for us, will believe
it now if they read on and see what more it done for us.
The place to buy canoes is off of rafts laying up at shore. But we
didn't see no rafts laying up; so we went along during three hours and
more. Well, the night got gray and ruther thick, which is the next
meanest thing to fog. You can't tell the shape of the river, and you
can't see no distance. It got to be very late and still, and then along
comes a steamboat up the river. We lit the lantern, and judged she would
see it. Up-stream boats didn't generly come close to us; they go out and
follow the bars and hunt for easy water under the reefs; but nights like
this they bull right up the channel against the whole river.
We could hear her pounding along, but we didn't see her good till she was
close. She aimed right for us. Often they do that and try to see how
close they can come without touching; sometimes the wheel bites off a
sweep, and then the pilot sticks his head out and laughs, and thinks he's
mighty smart. Well, here she comes, and we said she was going to try and
shave us; but she didn't seem to be sheering off a bit. She was a big
one, and she was coming in a hurry, too, looking like a black cloud with
rows of glow-worms around it; but all of a sudden she bulged out, big and
scary, with a long row of wide-open furnace doors shining like red-hot
teeth, and her monstrous bows and guards hanging right over us. There
was a yell at us, and a jingling of bells to stop the engines, a powwow
of cussing, and whistling of steam--and as Jim went overboard on one side
and I on the other, she come smashing straight through the raft.
I dived--and I aimed to find the bottom, too, for a thirty-foot wheel had
got to go over me, and I wanted it to have plenty of room. I could
always stay under water a minute; this time I reckon I stayed under a
minute and a half. Then I bounced for the top in a hurry, for I was
nearly busting. I popped out to my armpits and blowed the water out of
my nose, and puffed a bit. Of course there was a booming current; and of
course that boat started her engines again ten seconds after she stopped
them, for they never cared much for raftsmen; so now she was churning
along up the river, out of sight in the thick weather, though I could
I sung out for Jim about a dozen times, but I didn't get any answer; so I
grabbed a plank that touched me while I was "treading water," and struck
out for shore, shoving it ahead of me. But I made out to see that the
drift of the current was towards the left-hand shore, which meant that I
was in a crossing; so I changed off and went that way.
It was one of these long, slanting, two-mile crossings; so I was a good
long time in getting over. I made a safe landing, and clumb up the bank.
I couldn't see but a little ways, but I went poking along over rough
ground for a quarter of a mile or more, and then I run across a big
old-fashioned double log-house before I noticed it. I was going to rush
by and get away, but a lot of dogs jumped out and went to howling and
barking at me, and I knowed better than to move another peg.
IN about a minute somebody spoke out of a window without putting his head
out, and says:
"Be done, boys! Who's there?"
"George Jackson, sir."
"What do you want?"
"I don't want nothing, sir. I only want to go along by, but the dogs
won't let me."
"What are you prowling around here this time of night for--hey?"
"I warn't prowling around, sir, I fell overboard off of the steamboat."
"Oh, you did, did you? Strike a light there, somebody. What did you say
your name was?"
"George Jackson, sir. I'm only a boy."
"Look here, if you're telling the truth you needn't be afraid--nobody'll
hurt you. But don't try to budge; stand right where you are. Rouse out
Bob and Tom, some of you, and fetch the guns. George Jackson, is there
anybody with you?"
"No, sir, nobody."
I heard the people stirring around in the house now, and see a light.
The man sung out:
"Snatch that light away, Betsy, you old fool--ain't you got any sense?
Put it on the floor behind the front door. Bob, if you and Tom are
ready, take your places."
"Now, George Jackson, do you know the Shepherdsons?"
"No, sir; I never heard of them."
"Well, that may be so, and it mayn't. Now, all ready. Step forward,
George Jackson. And mind, don't you hurry--come mighty slow. If there's
anybody with you, let him keep back--if he shows himself he'll be shot.
Come along now. Come slow; push the door open yourself--just enough to
squeeze in, d' you hear?"
I didn't hurry; I couldn't if I'd a wanted to. I took one slow step at a
time and there warn't a sound, only I thought I could hear my heart. The
dogs were as still as the humans, but they followed a little behind me.
When I got to the three log doorsteps I heard them unlocking and
unbarring and unbolting. I put my hand on the door and pushed it a
little and a little more till somebody said, "There, that's enough--put
your head in." I done it, but I judged they would take it off.
The candle was on the floor, and there they all was, looking at me, and
me at them, for about a quarter of a minute: Three big men with guns
pointed at me, which made me wince, I tell you; the oldest, gray and
about sixty, the other two thirty or more--all of them fine and handsome
--and the sweetest old gray-headed lady, and back of her two young women
which I couldn't see right well. The old gentleman says:
"There; I reckon it's all right. Come in."
As soon as I was in the old gentleman he locked the door and barred it
and bolted it, and told the young men to come in with their guns, and
they all went in a big parlor that had a new rag carpet on the floor, and
got together in a corner that was out of the range of the front windows
--there warn't none on the side. They held the candle, and took a good
look at me, and all said, "Why, HE ain't a Shepherdson--no, there ain't
any Shepherdson about him." Then the old man said he hoped I wouldn't
mind being searched for arms, because he didn't mean no harm by it--it
was only to make sure. So he didn't pry into my pockets, but only felt
outside with his hands, and said it was all right. He told me to make
myself easy and at home, and tell all about myself; but the old lady
"Why, bless you, Saul, the poor thing's as wet as he can be; and don't
you reckon it may be he's hungry?"
"True for you, Rachel--I forgot."
So the old lady says:
"Betsy" (this was a nigger woman), "you fly around and get him something
to eat as quick as you can, poor thing; and one of you girls go and wake
up Buck and tell him--oh, here he is himself. Buck, take this little
stranger and get the wet clothes off from him and dress him up in some of
yours that's dry."
Buck looked about as old as me--thirteen or fourteen or along there,
though he was a little bigger than me. He hadn't on anything but a
shirt, and he was very frowzy-headed. He came in gaping and digging one
fist into his eyes, and he was dragging a gun along with the other one.
"Ain't they no Shepherdsons around?"
They said, no, 'twas a false alarm.
"Well," he says, "if they'd a ben some, I reckon I'd a got one."
They all laughed, and Bob says:
"Why, Buck, they might have scalped us all, you've been so slow in
"Well, nobody come after me, and it ain't right I'm always kept down; I
don't get no show."
"Never mind, Buck, my boy," says the old man, "you'll have show enough,
all in good time, don't you fret about that. Go 'long with you now, and
do as your mother told you."
When we got up-stairs to his room he got me a coarse shirt and a
roundabout and pants of his, and I put them on. While I was at it he
asked me what my name was, but before I could tell him he started to tell
me about a bluejay and a young rabbit he had catched in the woods day
before yesterday, and he asked me where Moses was when the candle went
out. I said I didn't know; I hadn't heard about it before, no way.
"Well, guess," he says.
"How'm I going to guess," says I, "when I never heard tell of it before?"
"But you can guess, can't you? It's just as easy."
"WHICH candle?" I says.
"Why, any candle," he says.
"I don't know where he was," says I; "where was he?"
"Why, he was in the DARK! That's where he was!"
"Well, if you knowed where he was, what did you ask me for?"
"Why, blame it, it's a riddle, don't you see? Say, how long are you
going to stay here? You got to stay always. We can just have booming
times--they don't have no school now. Do you own a dog? I've got a
dog--and he'll go in the river and bring out chips that you throw in. Do
you like to comb up Sundays, and all that kind of foolishness? You bet I
don't, but ma she makes me. Confound these ole britches! I reckon I'd
better put 'em on, but I'd ruther not, it's so warm. Are you all ready?
All right. Come along, old hoss."
Cold corn-pone, cold corn-beef, butter and buttermilk--that is what they
had for me down there, and there ain't nothing better that ever I've come
across yet. Buck and his ma and all of them smoked cob pipes, except the
nigger woman, which was gone, and the two young women. They all smoked
and talked, and I eat and talked. The young women had quilts around
them, and their hair down their backs. They all asked me questions, and
I told them how pap and me and all the family was living on a little farm
down at the bottom of Arkansaw, and my sister Mary Ann run off and got
married and never was heard of no more, and Bill went to hunt them and he
warn't heard of no more, and Tom and Mort died, and then there warn't
nobody but just me and pap left, and he was just trimmed down to nothing,
on account of his troubles; so when he died I took what there was left,
because the farm didn't belong to us, and started up the river, deck
passage, and fell overboard; and that was how I come to be here. So they
said I could have a home there as long as I wanted it. Then it was most
daylight and everybody went to bed, and I went to bed with Buck, and when
I waked up in the morning, drat it all, I had forgot what my name was.
So I laid there about an hour trying to think, and when Buck waked up I
"Can you spell, Buck?"
"Yes," he says.
"I bet you can't spell my name," says I.
"I bet you what you dare I can," says he.
"All right," says I, "go ahead."
"G-e-o-r-g-e J-a-x-o-n--there now," he says.
"Well," says I, "you done it, but I didn't think you could. It ain't no
slouch of a name to spell--right off without studying."
I set it down, private, because somebody might want ME to spell it next,
and so I wanted to be handy with it and rattle it off like I was used to
It was a mighty nice family, and a mighty nice house, too. I hadn't seen
no house out in the country before that was so nice and had so much
style. It didn't have an iron latch on the front door, nor a wooden one
with a buckskin string, but a brass knob to turn, the same as houses in
town. There warn't no bed in the parlor, nor a sign of a bed; but heaps
of parlors in towns has beds in them. There was a big fireplace that was
bricked on the bottom, and the bricks was kept clean and red by pouring
water on them and scrubbing them with another brick; sometimes they wash
them over with red water-paint that they call Spanish-brown, same as they
do in town. They had big brass dog-irons that could hold up a saw-log.
There was a clock on the middle of the mantelpiece, with a picture of a
town painted on the bottom half of the glass front, and a round place in
the middle of it for the sun, and you could see the pendulum swinging
behind it. It was beautiful to hear that clock tick; and sometimes when
one of these peddlers had been along and scoured her up and got her in
good shape, she would start in and strike a hundred and fifty before she
got tuckered out. They wouldn't took any money for her.
Well, there was a big outlandish parrot on each side of the clock, made
out of something like chalk, and painted up gaudy. By one of the parrots
was a cat made of crockery, and a crockery dog by the other; and when you
pressed down on them they squeaked, but didn't open their mouths nor look
different nor interested. They squeaked through underneath. There was a
couple of big wild-turkey-wing fans spread out behind those things. On
the table in the middle of the room was a kind of a lovely crockery
basket that had apples and oranges and peaches and grapes piled up in it,
which was much redder and yellower and prettier than real ones is, but
they warn't real because you could see where pieces had got chipped off
and showed the white chalk, or whatever it was, underneath.
This table had a cover made out of beautiful oilcloth, with a red and
blue spread-eagle painted on it, and a painted border all around. It
come all the way from Philadelphia, they said. There was some books,
too, piled up perfectly exact, on each corner of the table. One was a
big family Bible full of pictures. One was Pilgrim's Progress, about a
man that left his family, it didn't say why. I read considerable in it
now and then. The statements was interesting, but tough. Another was
Friendship's Offering, full of beautiful stuff and poetry; but I didn't
read the poetry. Another was Henry Clay's Speeches, and another was Dr.
Gunn's Family Medicine, which told you all about what to do if a body was
sick or dead. There was a hymn book, and a lot of other books. And
there was nice split-bottom chairs, and perfectly sound, too--not bagged
down in the middle and busted, like an old basket.
They had pictures hung on the walls--mainly Washingtons and Lafayettes,
and battles, and Highland Marys, and one called "Signing the
Declaration." There was some that they called crayons, which one of the
daughters which was dead made her own self when she was only fifteen
years old. They was different from any pictures I ever see before
--blacker, mostly, than is common. One was a woman in a slim black dress,
belted small under the armpits, with bulges like a cabbage in the middle
of the sleeves, and a large black scoop-shovel bonnet with a black veil,
and white slim ankles crossed about with black tape, and very wee black
slippers, like a chisel, and she was leaning pensive on a tombstone on
her right elbow, under a weeping willow, and her other hand hanging down
her side holding a white handkerchief and a reticule, and underneath the
picture it said "Shall I Never See Thee More Alas." Another one was a
young lady with her hair all combed up straight to the top of her head,
and knotted there in front of a comb like a chair-back, and she was
crying into a handkerchief and had a dead bird laying on its back in her
other hand with its heels up, and underneath the picture it said "I Shall
Never Hear Thy Sweet Chirrup More Alas." There was one where a young
lady was at a window looking up at the moon, and tears running down her
cheeks; and she had an open letter in one hand with black sealing wax
showing on one edge of it, and she was mashing a locket with a chain to
it against her mouth, and underneath the picture it said "And Art Thou
Gone Yes Thou Art Gone Alas." These was all nice pictures, I reckon, but
I didn't somehow seem to take to them, because if ever I was down a
little they always give me the fan-tods. Everybody was sorry she died,
because she had laid out a lot more of these pictures to do, and a body
could see by what she had done what they had lost. But I reckoned that
with her disposition she was having a better time in the graveyard. She
was at work on what they said was her greatest picture when she took
sick, and every day and every night it was her prayer to be allowed to
live till she got it done, but she never got the chance. It was a
picture of a young woman in a long white gown, standing on the rail of a
bridge all ready to jump off, with her hair all down her back, and
looking up to the moon, with the tears running down her face, and she had
two arms folded across her breast, and two arms stretched out in front,
and two more reaching up towards the moon--and the idea was to see which
pair would look best, and then scratch out all the other arms; but, as I
was saying, she died before she got her mind made up, and now they kept
this picture over the head of the bed in her room, and every time her
birthday come they hung flowers on it. Other times it was hid with a
little curtain. The young woman in the picture had a kind of a nice
sweet face, but there was so many arms it made her look too spidery,
seemed to me.
This young girl kept a scrap-book when she was alive, and used to paste
obituaries and accidents and cases of patient suffering in it out of the
Presbyterian Observer, and write poetry after them out of her own head.
It was very good poetry. This is what she wrote about a boy by the name
of Stephen Dowling Bots that fell down a well and was drownded:
ODE TO STEPHEN DOWLING BOTS, DEC'D
And did young Stephen sicken, And did young Stephen die? And did the sad
hearts thicken, And did the mourners cry?
No; such was not the fate of Young Stephen Dowling Bots; Though sad
hearts round him thickened, 'Twas not from sickness' shots.
No whooping-cough did rack his frame, Nor measles drear with spots; Not
these impaired the sacred name Of Stephen Dowling Bots.
Despised love struck not with woe That head of curly knots, Nor stomach
troubles laid him low, Young Stephen Dowling Bots.
O no. Then list with tearful eye, Whilst I his fate do tell. His soul
did from this cold world fly By falling down a well.
They got him out and emptied him; Alas it was too late; His spirit was
gone for to sport aloft In the realms of the good and great.
If Emmeline Grangerford could make poetry like that before she was
fourteen, there ain't no telling what she could a done by and by. Buck
said she could rattle off poetry like nothing. She didn't ever have to
stop to think. He said she would slap down a line, and if she couldn't
find anything to rhyme with it would just scratch it out and slap down
another one, and go ahead. She warn't particular; she could write about
anything you choose to give her to write about just so it was sadful.
Every time a man died, or a woman died, or a child died, she would be on
hand with her "tribute" before he was cold. She called them tributes.
The neighbors said it was the doctor first, then Emmeline, then the
undertaker--the undertaker never got in ahead of Emmeline but once, and
then she hung fire on a rhyme for the dead person's name, which was
Whistler. She warn't ever the same after that; she never complained, but
she kinder pined away and did not live long. Poor thing, many's the time
I made myself go up to the little room that used to be hers and get out
her poor old scrap-book and read in it when her pictures had been
aggravating me and I had soured on her a little. I liked all that
family, dead ones and all, and warn't going to let anything come between
us. Poor Emmeline made poetry about all the dead people when she was
alive, and it didn't seem right that there warn't nobody to make some
about her now she was gone; so I tried to sweat out a verse or two
myself, but I couldn't seem to make it go somehow. They kept Emmeline's
room trim and nice, and all the things fixed in it just the way she liked
to have them when she was alive, and nobody ever slept there. The old
lady took care of the room herself, though there was plenty of niggers,
and she sewed there a good deal and read her Bible there mostly.
Well, as I was saying about the parlor, there was beautiful curtains on
the windows: white, with pictures painted on them of castles with vines
all down the walls, and cattle coming down to drink. There was a little
old piano, too, that had tin pans in it, I reckon, and nothing was ever
Back to Full Books