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Chapter XXXI
   WE  dasn't  stop  again at any town for days and days; kept right along
down the river. We was down south in the warm weather now, and a mighty
long ways from home. We begun to come to trees with Spanish moss on them,
hanging down from the limbs like long, gray beards. It was the first I
ever see it growing, and it made the woods look solemn and dismal. So now
the frauds reckoned they was out of danger, and they begun to work the
villages again.
First they done a lecture on temperance; but they didn't make enough
for them both to get drunk on. Then in another village they started a
dancing-school; but they didn't know no more how to dance than a kangaroo
does; so the first prance they made the general public jumped in and
pranced them out of town. Another time they tried to go at yellocution;
but they didn't yellocute long till the audience got up and give them a
solid good cussing, and made them skip out. They tackled missionarying,
and mesmerizing, and doctoring, and telling fortunes, and a little of
everything; but they couldn't seem to have no luck. So at last they got
just about dead broke, and laid around the raft as she floated along,
thinking and thinking, and never saying nothing, by the half a day at a
time, and dreadful blue and desperate.
And at last they took a change and begun to lay their heads together in
the wigwam and talk low and confidential two or three hours at a time. Jim
and me got uneasy. We didn't like the look of it. We judged they was
studying up some kind of worse deviltry than ever. We turned it over and
over, and at last we made up our minds they was going to break into
somebody's house or store, or was going into the counterfeitmoney
business, or something. So then we was pretty scared, and made up an
agreement that we wouldn't have nothing in the world to do with such
actions, and if we ever got the least show we would give them the cold
shake and clear out and leave them behind. Well, early one morning we hid
the raft in a good, safe place about two mile below a little bit of a
shabby village named Pikesville, and the king he went ashore and told us
all to stay hid whilst he went up to town and smelt around to see if
anybody had got any wind of the Royal Nonesuch there yet. ("House to rob,
you MEAN," says I to myself; "and when you get through robbing it you'll
come back here and wonder what has become of me and Jim and the raft-and
you'll have to take it out in wondering.") And he said if he warn't back
by midday the duke and me would know it was all right, and we was to come
So we stayed where we was. The duke he fretted and sweated around, and
was in a mighty sour way. He scolded us for everything, and we couldn't
seem to do nothing right; he found fault with every little thing.
Something was a-brewing, sure. I was good and glad when midday come and no
king; we could have a change, anyway-and maybe a chance for THE chance on
top of it. So me and the duke went up to the village, and hunted around
there for the king, and by and by we found him in the back room of a
little low doggery, very tight, and a lot of loafers bullyragging him for
sport, and he a-cussing and a-threatening with all his might, and so tight
he couldn't walk, and couldn't do nothing to them. The duke he begun to
abuse him for an old fool, and the king begun to sass back, and the minute
they was fairly at it I lit out and shook the reefs out of my hind legs,
and spun down the river road like a deer, for I see our chance; and I made
up my mind that it would be a long day before they ever see me and Jim
again. I got down there all out of breath but loaded up with joy, and sung
"Set her loose, Jim! we're all right now!"
But there warn't no answer, and nobody come out of the wigwam. Jim was
gone! I set up a shout-and then another-and then another one; and run this
way and that in the woods, whooping and screeching; but it warn't no
use-old Jim was gone. Then I set down and cried; I couldn't help it. But I
couldn't set still long. Pretty soon I went out on the road, trying to
think what I better do, and I run across a boy walking, and asked him if
he'd seen a strange nigger dressed so and so, and he says:
"Whereabouts?" says I.
"Down to Silas Phelps' place, two mile below here. He's a runaway
nigger, and they've got him. Was you looking for him?"
"You bet I ain't! I run across him in the woods about an hour or two
ago, and he said if I hollered he'd cut my livers out-and told me to lay
down and stay where I was; and I done it. Been there ever since; afeard to
come out."
"Well," he says, "you needn't be afeard no more, becuz they've got him.
He run off f'm down South, som'ers."
"It's a good job they got him." "Well, I RECKON! There's two hunderd
dollars reward on him. It's like picking up money out'n the road."
"Yes, it is-and I could a had it if I'd been big enough; I see him
FIRST. Who nailed him?"
"It was an old fellow-a stranger-and he sold out his chance in him for
forty dollars, becuz he's got to go up the river and can't wait. Think o'
that, now! You bet I'D wait, if it was seven year."
"That's me, every time," says I. "But maybe his chance ain't worth no
more than that, if he'll sell it so cheap. Maybe there's something ain't
straight about it."
"But it IS, though-straight as a string. I see the handbill myself. It
tells all about him, to a dot-paints him like a picture, and tells the
plantation he's frum, below NewrLEANS. No-sirree-BOB, they ain't no
trouble 'bout THAT speculation, you bet you. Say, gimme a chaw tobacker,
won't ye?"
I didn't have none, so he left. I went to the raft, and set down in the
wigwam to think. But I couldn't come to nothing. I thought till I wore my
head sore, but I couldn't see no way out of the trouble. After all this
long journey, and after all we'd done for them scoundrels, here it was all
come to nothing, everything all busted up and ruined, because they could
have the heart to serve Jim such a trick as that, and make him a slave
again all his life, and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirty dollars.
Once I said to myself it would be a thousand times better for Jim to be
a slave at home where his family was, as long as he'd GOT to be a slave,
and so I'd better write a letter to Tom Sawyer and tell him to tell Miss
Watson where he was. But I soon give up that notion for two things: she'd
be mad and disgusted at his rascality and ungratefulness for leaving her,
and so she'd sell him straight down the river again; and if she didn't,
everybody naturally despises an ungrateful nigger, and they'd make Jim
feel it all the time, and so he'd feel ornery and disgraced. And then
think of ME! It would get all around that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get
his freedom; and if I was ever to see anybody from that town again I'd be
ready to get down and lick his boots for shame. That's just the way: a
person does a low-down thing, and then he don't want to take no
consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide, it ain't no disgrace.
That was my fix exactly. The more I studied about this the more my
conscience went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-down and
ornery I got to feeling. And at last, when it hit me all of a sudden that
here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting
me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in
heaven,whilst I was stealing a poor old woman's nigger that hadn't ever
done me no harm, and now was showing me there's One that's always on the
lookout, and ain't agoing to allow no such miserable doings to go only
just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared.
Well, I tried the best I could to kinder soften it up somehow for myself
by saying I was brung up wicked, and so I warn't so much to blame; but
something inside of me kept saying, "There was the Sunday-school, you
could a gone to it; and if you'd a done it they'd a learnt you there that
people that acts as I'd been acting about that nigger goes to everlasting
It made me shiver. And I about made up my mind to pray, and see if I
couldn't try to quit being the kind of a boy I was and be better. So I
kneeled down. But the words wouldn't come. Why wouldn't they? It warn't no
use to try and hide it from Him. Nor from ME, neither. I knowed very well
why they wouldn't come. It was because my heart warn't right; it was
because I warn't square; it was because I was playing double. I was
letting ON to give up sin, but away inside of me I was holding on to the
biggest one of all. I was trying to make my mouth SAY I would do the right
thing and the clean thing, and go and write to that nigger's owner and
tell where he was; but deep down in me I knowed it was a lie, and He
knowed it. You can't pray a lie-I found that out.
So I was full of trouble, full as I could be; and didn't know what to
do. At last I had an idea; and I says, I'll go and write the letter-and
then see if I can pray. Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light
as a feather right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a
piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote:
Miss Watson, your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below
Pikesville, and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the
reward if you send.
I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever
felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn't do it
straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking-thinking how
good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and
going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip
down the river; and I see Jim before me all the time: in the day and in
the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a-floating
along, talking and singing and laughing. But somehow I couldn't seem to
strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I'd
see him standing my watch on top of his'n, 'stead of calling me, so I
could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of
the fog; and when I come to him again in the swamp, up there where the
feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me
and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was;
and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had
small-pox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend
old Jim ever had in the world, and the ONLY one he's got now; and then I
happened to look around and see that paper.
It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was
a-trembling, because I'd got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I
knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to
"All right, then, I'll GO to hell"-and tore it up.
It was awful thoughts and awful words, but they was said. And I let
them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the
whole thing out of my head, and said I would take up wickedness again,
which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn't. And for
a starter I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I
could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I
was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.
Then I set to thinking over how to get at it, and turned over some
considerable many ways in my mind; and at last fixed up a plan that suited
me. So then I took the bearings of a woody island that was down the river
a piece, and as soon as it was fairly dark I crept out with my raft and
went for it, and hid it there, and then turned in. I slept the night
through, and got up before it was light, and had my breakfast, and put on
my store clothes, and tied up some others and one thing or another in a
bundle, and took the canoe and cleared for shore. I landed below where I
judged was Phelps's place, and hid my bundle in the woods, and then filled
up the canoe with water, and loaded rocks into her and sunk her where I
could find her again when I wanted her, about a quarter of a mile below a
little steam sawmill that was on the bank.
Then I struck up the road, and when I passed the mill I see a sign on
it, "Phelps's Sawmill," and when I come to the farm-houses, two or three
hundred yards further along, I kept my eyes peeled, but didn't see nobody
around, though it was good daylight now. But I didn't mind, because I
didn't want to see nobody just yet-I only wanted to get the lay of the
land. According to my plan, I was going to turn up there from the village,
not from below. So I just took a look, and shoved along, straight for
town. Well, the very first man I see when I got there was the duke. He was
sticking up a bill for the Royal Nonesuch-three-night performance-like
that other time. They had the cheek, them frauds! I was right on him
before I could shirk. He looked astonished, and says:
"Hel-LO! Where'd YOU come from?" Then he says, kind of glad and eager,
"Where's the raft?-got her in a good place?"
I says:
"Why, that's just what I was going to ask your grace."
Then he didn't look so joyful, and says:
"What was your idea for asking ME?" he says.
"Well," I says, "when I see the king in that doggery yesterday I says
to myself, we can't get him home for hours, till he's soberer; so I went
a-loafing around town to put in the time and wait. A man up and offered me
ten cents to help him pull a skiff over the river and back to fetch a
sheep, and so I went along; but when we was dragging him to the boat, and
the man left me a-holt of the rope and went behind him to shove him along,
he was too strong for me and jerked loose and run, and we after him. We
didn't have no dog, and so we had to chase him all over the country till
we tired him out. We never got him till dark; then we fetched him over,
and I started down for the raft. When I got there and see it was gone, I
says to myself, 'They've got into trouble and had to leave; and they've
took my nigger, which is the only nigger I've got in the world, and now
I'm in a strange country, and ain't got no property no more, nor nothing,
and no way to make my living;' so I set down and cried. I slept in the
woods all night. But what DID become of the raft, then?-and Jim-poor Jim!"
"Blamed if I know-that is, what's become of the raft. That old fool had
made a trade and got forty dollars, and when we found him in the doggery
the loafers had matched half-dollars with him and got every cent but what
he'd spent for whisky; and when I got him home late last night and found
the raft gone, we said, 'That little rascal has stole our raft and shook
us, and run off down the river.'"
"I wouldn't shake my NIGGER, would I?-the only nigger I had in the
world, and the only property."
"We never thought of that. Fact is, I reckon we'd come to consider him
OUR nigger; yes, we did consider him so-goodness knows we had trouble
enough for him. So when we see the raft was gone and we flat broke, there
warn't anything for it but to try the Royal Nonesuch another shake. And
I've pegged along ever since, dry as a powder-horn. Where's that ten
cents? Give it here."
I had considerable money, so I give him ten cents, but begged him to
spend it for something to eat, and give me some, because it was all the
money I had, and I hadn't had nothing to eat since yesterday. He never
said nothing. The next minute he whirls on me and says:
"Do you reckon that nigger would blow on us? We'd skin him if he done
"How can he blow? Hain't he run off?"
"No! That old fool sold him, and never divided with me, and the money's
"SOLD him?" I says, and begun to cry; "why, he was MY nigger, and that
was my money. Where is he?-I want my nigger."
"Well, you can't GET your nigger, that's all-so dry up your blubbering.
Looky here-do you think YOU'D venture to blow on us? Blamed if I think I'd
trust you. Why, if you WAS to blow on us-"
He stopped, but I never see the duke look so ugly out of his eyes
before. I went on a-whimpering, and says:
"I don't want to blow on nobody; and I ain't got no time to blow,
nohow. I got to turn out and find my nigger."
He looked kinder bothered, and stood there with his bills fluttering on
his arm, thinking, and wrinkling up his forehead. At last he says:
"I'll tell you something. We got to be here three days. If you'll
promise you won't blow, and won't let the nigger blow, I'll tell you where
to find him."
So I promised, and he says:
"A farmer by the name of Silas Ph--" and then he stopped. You see, he
started to tell me the truth; but when he stopped that way, and begun to
study and think again, I reckoned he was changing his mind. And so he was.
He wouldn't trust me; he wanted to make sure of having me out of the way
the whole three days. So pretty soon he says:
"The man that bought him is named Abram Foster-Abram G. Foster-and he
lives forty mile back here in the country, on the road to Lafayette."
"All right," I says, "I can walk it in three days. And I'll start this
very afternoon."
"No you wont, you'll start NOW; and don't you lose any time about it,
neither, nor do any gabbling by the way. Just keep a tight tongue in your
head and move right along, and then you won't get into trouble with US,
d'ye hear?"
That was the order I wanted, and that was the one I played for. I
wanted to be left free to work my plans.
"So clear out," he says; "and you can tell Mr. Foster whatever you want
to. Maybe you can get him to believe that Jim IS your nigger-some idiots
don't require documents-leastways I've heard there's such down South here.
And when you tell him the handbill and the reward's bogus, maybe he'll
believe you when you explain to him what the idea was for getting 'em out.
Go 'long now, and tell him anything you want to; but mind you don't work
your jaw any BETWEEN here and there."
So I left, and struck for the back country. I didn't look around, but I
kinder felt like he was watching me. But I knowed I could tire him out at
that. I went straight out in the country as much as a mile before I
stopped; then I doubled back through the woods towards Phelps'. I reckoned
I better start in on my plan straight off without fooling around, because
I wanted to stop Jim's mouth till these fellows could get away. I didn't
want no trouble with their kind. I'd seen all I wanted to of them, and
wanted to get entirely shut of them.