Produced by David Widger
By Mark Twain
WELL, pretty soon the old man was up and around again, and then he went
for Judge Thatcher in the courts to make him give up that money, and he
went for me, too, for not stopping school. He catched me a couple of
times and thrashed me, but I went to school just the same, and dodged him
or outrun him most of the time. I didn't want to go to school much
before, but I reckoned I'd go now to spite pap. That law trial was a
slow business--appeared like they warn't ever going to get started on
it; so every now and then I'd borrow two or three dollars off of the
judge for him, to keep from getting a cowhiding. Every time he got money
he got drunk; and every time he got drunk he raised Cain around town; and
every time he raised Cain he got jailed. He was just suited--this kind
of thing was right in his line.
He got to hanging around the widow's too much and so she told him at last
that if he didn't quit using around there she would make trouble for him.
Well, WASN'T he mad? He said he would show who was Huck Finn's boss. So
he watched out for me one day in the spring, and catched me, and took me
up the river about three mile in a skiff, and crossed over to the
Illinois shore where it was woody and there warn't no houses but an old
log hut in a place where the timber was so thick you couldn't find it if
you didn't know where it was.
He kept me with him all the time, and I never got a chance to run off.
We lived in that old cabin, and he always locked the door and put the key
under his head nights. He had a gun which he had stole, I reckon, and we
fished and hunted, and that was what we lived on. Every little while he
locked me in and went down to the store, three miles, to the ferry, and
traded fish and game for whisky, and fetched it home and got drunk and
had a good time, and licked me. The widow she found out where I was by
and by, and she sent a man over to try to get hold of me; but pap drove
him off with the gun, and it warn't long after that till I was used to
being where I was, and liked it--all but the cowhide part.
It was kind of lazy and jolly, laying off comfortable all day, smoking
and fishing, and no books nor study. Two months or more run along, and
my clothes got to be all rags and dirt, and I didn't see how I'd ever got
to like it so well at the widow's, where you had to wash, and eat on a
plate, and comb up, and go to bed and get up regular, and be forever
bothering over a book, and have old Miss Watson pecking at you all the
time. I didn't want to go back no more. I had stopped cussing, because
the widow didn't like it; but now I took to it again because pap hadn't
no objections. It was pretty good times up in the woods there, take it
But by and by pap got too handy with his hick'ry, and I couldn't stand
it. I was all over welts. He got to going away so much, too, and locking
me in. Once he locked me in and was gone three days. It was dreadful
lonesome. I judged he had got drowned, and I wasn't ever going to get
out any more. I was scared. I made up my mind I would fix up some way
to leave there. I had tried to get out of that cabin many a time, but I
couldn't find no way. There warn't a window to it big enough for a dog
to get through. I couldn't get up the chimbly; it was too narrow. The
door was thick, solid oak slabs. Pap was pretty careful not to leave a
knife or anything in the cabin when he was away; I reckon I had hunted
the place over as much as a hundred times; well, I was most all the time
at it, because it was about the only way to put in the time. But this
time I found something at last; I found an old rusty wood-saw without any
handle; it was laid in between a rafter and the clapboards of the roof.
I greased it up and went to work. There was an old horse-blanket nailed
against the logs at the far end of the cabin behind the table, to keep
the wind from blowing through the chinks and putting the candle out. I
got under the table and raised the blanket, and went to work to saw a
section of the big bottom log out--big enough to let me through. Well,
it was a good long job, but I was getting towards the end of it when I
heard pap's gun in the woods. I got rid of the signs of my work, and
dropped the blanket and hid my saw, and pretty soon pap come in.
Pap warn't in a good humor--so he was his natural self. He said he was
down town, and everything was going wrong. His lawyer said he reckoned
he would win his lawsuit and get the money if they ever got started on
the trial; but then there was ways to put it off a long time, and Judge
Thatcher knowed how to do it. And he said people allowed there'd be
another trial to get me away from him and give me to the widow for my
guardian, and they guessed it would win this time. This shook me up
considerable, because I didn't want to go back to the widow's any more
and be so cramped up and sivilized, as they called it. Then the old man
got to cussing, and cussed everything and everybody he could think of,
and then cussed them all over again to make sure he hadn't skipped any,
and after that he polished off with a kind of a general cuss all round,
including a considerable parcel of people which he didn't know the names
of, and so called them what's-his-name when he got to them, and went
right along with his cussing.
He said he would like to see the widow get me. He said he would watch
out, and if they tried to come any such game on him he knowed of a place
six or seven mile off to stow me in, where they might hunt till they
dropped and they couldn't find me. That made me pretty uneasy again, but
only for a minute; I reckoned I wouldn't stay on hand till he got that
The old man made me go to the skiff and fetch the things he had got.
There was a fifty-pound sack of corn meal, and a side of bacon,
ammunition, and a four-gallon jug of whisky, and an old book and two
newspapers for wadding, besides some tow. I toted up a load, and went
back and set down on the bow of the skiff to rest. I thought it all
over, and I reckoned I would walk off with the gun and some lines, and
take to the woods when I run away. I guessed I wouldn't stay in one
place, but just tramp right across the country, mostly night times, and
hunt and fish to keep alive, and so get so far away that the old man nor
the widow couldn't ever find me any more. I judged I would saw out and
leave that night if pap got drunk enough, and I reckoned he would. I got
so full of it I didn't notice how long I was staying till the old man
hollered and asked me whether I was asleep or drownded.
I got the things all up to the cabin, and then it was about dark. While
I was cooking supper the old man took a swig or two and got sort of
warmed up, and went to ripping again. He had been drunk over in town,
and laid in the gutter all night, and he was a sight to look at. A body
would a thought he was Adam--he was just all mud. Whenever his liquor
begun to work he most always went for the govment, this time he says:
"Call this a govment! why, just look at it and see what it's like.
Here's the law a-standing ready to take a man's son away from him--a
man's own son, which he has had all the trouble and all the anxiety and
all the expense of raising. Yes, just as that man has got that son
raised at last, and ready to go to work and begin to do suthin' for HIM
and give him a rest, the law up and goes for him. And they call THAT
govment! That ain't all, nuther. The law backs that old Judge Thatcher
up and helps him to keep me out o' my property. Here's what the law
does: The law takes a man worth six thousand dollars and up'ards, and
jams him into an old trap of a cabin like this, and lets him go round in
clothes that ain't fitten for a hog. They call that govment! A man can't
get his rights in a govment like this. Sometimes I've a mighty notion to
just leave the country for good and all. Yes, and I TOLD 'em so; I told
old Thatcher so to his face. Lots of 'em heard me, and can tell what I
said. Says I, for two cents I'd leave the blamed country and never come
a-near it agin. Them's the very words. I says look at my hat--if you
call it a hat--but the lid raises up and the rest of it goes down till
it's below my chin, and then it ain't rightly a hat at all, but more like
my head was shoved up through a jint o' stove-pipe. Look at it, says I
--such a hat for me to wear--one of the wealthiest men in this town if I
could git my rights.
"Oh, yes, this is a wonderful govment, wonderful. Why, looky here.
There was a free nigger there from Ohio--a mulatter, most as white as a
white man. He had the whitest shirt on you ever see, too, and the
shiniest hat; and there ain't a man in that town that's got as fine
clothes as what he had; and he had a gold watch and chain, and a
silver-headed cane--the awfulest old gray-headed nabob in the State. And
what do you think? They said he was a p'fessor in a college, and could
talk all kinds of languages, and knowed everything. And that ain't the
wust. They said he could VOTE when he was at home. Well, that let me
out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It was 'lection day, and
I was just about to go and vote myself if I warn't too drunk to get
there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where
they'd let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I'll never vote agin.
Them's the very words I said; they all heard me; and the country may rot
for all me --I'll never vote agin as long as I live. And to see the cool
way of that nigger--why, he wouldn't a give me the road if I hadn't
shoved him out o' the way. I says to the people, why ain't this nigger
put up at auction and sold?--that's what I want to know. And what do you
reckon they said? Why, they said he couldn't be sold till he'd been in
the State six months, and he hadn't been there that long yet. There,
now--that's a specimen. They call that a govment that can't sell a free
nigger till he's been in the State six months. Here's a govment that
calls itself a govment, and lets on to be a govment, and thinks it is a
govment, and yet's got to set stock-still for six whole months before it
can take a hold of a prowling, thieving, infernal, white-shirted free
Pap was agoing on so he never noticed where his old limber legs was
taking him to, so he went head over heels over the tub of salt pork and
barked both shins, and the rest of his speech was all the hottest kind of
language--mostly hove at the nigger and the govment, though he give the
tub some, too, all along, here and there. He hopped around the cabin
considerable, first on one leg and then on the other, holding first one
shin and then the other one, and at last he let out with his left foot
all of a sudden and fetched the tub a rattling kick. But it warn't good
judgment, because that was the boot that had a couple of his toes leaking
out of the front end of it; so now he raised a howl that fairly made a
body's hair raise, and down he went in the dirt, and rolled there, and
held his toes; and the cussing he done then laid over anything he had
ever done previous. He said so his own self afterwards. He had heard
old Sowberry Hagan in his best days, and he said it laid over him, too;
but I reckon that was sort of piling it on, maybe.
After supper pap took the jug, and said he had enough whisky there for
two drunks and one delirium tremens. That was always his word. I judged
he would be blind drunk in about an hour, and then I would steal the key,
or saw myself out, one or t'other. He drank and drank, and tumbled down
on his blankets by and by; but luck didn't run my way. He didn't go
sound asleep, but was uneasy. He groaned and moaned and thrashed around
this way and that for a long time. At last I got so sleepy I couldn't
keep my eyes open all I could do, and so before I knowed what I was about
I was sound asleep, and the candle burning.
I don't know how long I was asleep, but all of a sudden there was an
awful scream and I was up. There was pap looking wild, and skipping
around every which way and yelling about snakes. He said they was
crawling up his legs; and then he would give a jump and scream, and say
one had bit him on the cheek--but I couldn't see no snakes. He started
and run round and round the cabin, hollering "Take him off! take him off!
he's biting me on the neck!" I never see a man look so wild in the eyes.
Pretty soon he was all fagged out, and fell down panting; then he rolled
over and over wonderful fast, kicking things every which way, and
striking and grabbing at the air with his hands, and screaming and saying
there was devils a-hold of him. He wore out by and by, and laid still a
while, moaning. Then he laid stiller, and didn't make a sound. I could
hear the owls and the wolves away off in the woods, and it seemed
terrible still. He was laying over by the corner. By and by he raised up
part way and listened, with his head to one side. He says, very low:
"Tramp--tramp--tramp; that's the dead; tramp--tramp--tramp; they're
coming after me; but I won't go. Oh, they're here! don't touch me
--don't! hands off--they're cold; let go. Oh, let a poor devil alone!"
Then he went down on all fours and crawled off, begging them to let him
alone, and he rolled himself up in his blanket and wallowed in under the
old pine table, still a-begging; and then he went to crying. I could
hear him through the blanket.
By and by he rolled out and jumped up on his feet looking wild, and he
see me and went for me. He chased me round and round the place with a
clasp-knife, calling me the Angel of Death, and saying he would kill me,
and then I couldn't come for him no more. I begged, and told him I was
only Huck; but he laughed SUCH a screechy laugh, and roared and cussed,
and kept on chasing me up. Once when I turned short and dodged under his
arm he made a grab and got me by the jacket between my shoulders, and I
thought I was gone; but I slid out of the jacket quick as lightning, and
saved myself. Pretty soon he was all tired out, and dropped down with his
back against the door, and said he would rest a minute and then kill me.
He put his knife under him, and said he would sleep and get strong, and
then he would see who was who.
So he dozed off pretty soon. By and by I got the old split-bottom chair
and clumb up as easy as I could, not to make any noise, and got down the
gun. I slipped the ramrod down it to make sure it was loaded, then I
laid it across the turnip barrel, pointing towards pap, and set down
behind it to wait for him to stir. And how slow and still the time did
"GIT up! What you 'bout?"
I opened my eyes and looked around, trying to make out where I was. It
was after sun-up, and I had been sound asleep. Pap was standing over me
looking sour and sick, too. He says:
"What you doin' with this gun?"
I judged he didn't know nothing about what he had been doing, so I says:
"Somebody tried to get in, so I was laying for him."
"Why didn't you roust me out?"
"Well, I tried to, but I couldn't; I couldn't budge you."
"Well, all right. Don't stand there palavering all day, but out with you
and see if there's a fish on the lines for breakfast. I'll be along in a
He unlocked the door, and I cleared out up the river-bank. I noticed
some pieces of limbs and such things floating down, and a sprinkling of
bark; so I knowed the river had begun to rise. I reckoned I would have
great times now if I was over at the town. The June rise used to be
always luck for me; because as soon as that rise begins here comes
cordwood floating down, and pieces of log rafts--sometimes a dozen logs
together; so all you have to do is to catch them and sell them to the
wood-yards and the sawmill.
I went along up the bank with one eye out for pap and t'other one out for
what the rise might fetch along. Well, all at once here comes a canoe;
just a beauty, too, about thirteen or fourteen foot long, riding high
like a duck. I shot head-first off of the bank like a frog, clothes and
all on, and struck out for the canoe. I just expected there'd be
somebody laying down in it, because people often done that to fool folks,
and when a chap had pulled a skiff out most to it they'd raise up and
laugh at him. But it warn't so this time. It was a drift-canoe sure
enough, and I clumb in and paddled her ashore. Thinks I, the old man
will be glad when he sees this--she's worth ten dollars. But when I
got to shore pap wasn't in sight yet, and as I was running her into a
little creek like a gully, all hung over with vines and willows, I struck
another idea: I judged I'd hide her good, and then, 'stead of taking to
the woods when I run off, I'd go down the river about fifty mile and camp
in one place for good, and not have such a rough time tramping on foot.
It was pretty close to the shanty, and I thought I heard the old man
coming all the time; but I got her hid; and then I out and looked around
a bunch of willows, and there was the old man down the path a piece just
drawing a bead on a bird with his gun. So he hadn't seen anything.
When he got along I was hard at it taking up a "trot" line. He abused me
a little for being so slow; but I told him I fell in the river, and that
was what made me so long. I knowed he would see I was wet, and then he
would be asking questions. We got five catfish off the lines and went
While we laid off after breakfast to sleep up, both of us being about
wore out, I got to thinking that if I could fix up some way to keep pap
and the widow from trying to follow me, it would be a certainer thing
than trusting to luck to get far enough off before they missed me; you
see, all kinds of things might happen. Well, I didn't see no way for a
while, but by and by pap raised up a minute to drink another barrel of
water, and he says:
"Another time a man comes a-prowling round here you roust me out, you
hear? That man warn't here for no good. I'd a shot him. Next time you
roust me out, you hear?"
Then he dropped down and went to sleep again; but what he had been saying
give me the very idea I wanted. I says to myself, I can fix it now so
nobody won't think of following me.
About twelve o'clock we turned out and went along up the bank. The river
was coming up pretty fast, and lots of driftwood going by on the rise.
By and by along comes part of a log raft--nine logs fast together. We
went out with the skiff and towed it ashore. Then we had dinner.
Anybody but pap would a waited and seen the day through, so as to catch
more stuff; but that warn't pap's style. Nine logs was enough for one
time; he must shove right over to town and sell. So he locked me in and
took the skiff, and started off towing the raft about half-past three. I
judged he wouldn't come back that night. I waited till I reckoned he had
got a good start; then I out with my saw, and went to work on that log
again. Before he was t'other side of the river I was out of the hole;
him and his raft was just a speck on the water away off yonder.
I took the sack of corn meal and took it to where the canoe was hid, and
shoved the vines and branches apart and put it in; then I done the same
with the side of bacon; then the whisky-jug. I took all the coffee and
sugar there was, and all the ammunition; I took the wadding; I took the
bucket and gourd; I took a dipper and a tin cup, and my old saw and two
blankets, and the skillet and the coffee-pot. I took fish-lines and
matches and other things--everything that was worth a cent. I cleaned
out the place. I wanted an axe, but there wasn't any, only the one out
at the woodpile, and I knowed why I was going to leave that. I fetched
out the gun, and now I was done.
I had wore the ground a good deal crawling out of the hole and dragging
out so many things. So I fixed that as good as I could from the outside
by scattering dust on the place, which covered up the smoothness and the
sawdust. Then I fixed the piece of log back into its place, and put two
rocks under it and one against it to hold it there, for it was bent up at
that place and didn't quite touch ground. If you stood four or five foot
away and didn't know it was sawed, you wouldn't never notice it; and
besides, this was the back of the cabin, and it warn't likely anybody
would go fooling around there.
It was all grass clear to the canoe, so I hadn't left a track. I
followed around to see. I stood on the bank and looked out over the
river. All safe. So I took the gun and went up a piece into the woods,
and was hunting around for some birds when I see a wild pig; hogs soon
went wild in them bottoms after they had got away from the prairie farms.
I shot this fellow and took him into camp.
I took the axe and smashed in the door. I beat it and hacked it
considerable a-doing it. I fetched the pig in, and took him back nearly
to the table and hacked into his throat with the axe, and laid him down
on the ground to bleed; I say ground because it was ground--hard packed,
and no boards. Well, next I took an old sack and put a lot of big rocks
in it--all I could drag--and I started it from the pig, and dragged it
to the door and through the woods down to the river and dumped it in, and
down it sunk, out of sight. You could easy see that something had been
dragged over the ground. I did wish Tom Sawyer was there; I knowed he
would take an interest in this kind of business, and throw in the fancy
touches. Nobody could spread himself like Tom Sawyer in such a thing as
Well, last I pulled out some of my hair, and blooded the axe good, and
stuck it on the back side, and slung the axe in the corner. Then I took
up the pig and held him to my breast with my jacket (so he couldn't drip)
till I got a good piece below the house and then dumped him into the
river. Now I thought of something else. So I went and got the bag of
meal and my old saw out of the canoe, and fetched them to the house. I
took the bag to where it used to stand, and ripped a hole in the bottom
of it with the saw, for there warn't no knives and forks on the place
--pap done everything with his clasp-knife about the cooking. Then I
carried the sack about a hundred yards across the grass and through the
willows east of the house, to a shallow lake that was five mile wide and
full of rushes--and ducks too, you might say, in the season. There was a
slough or a creek leading out of it on the other side that went miles
away, I don't know where, but it didn't go to the river. The meal sifted
out and made a little track all the way to the lake. I dropped pap's
whetstone there too, so as to look like it had been done by accident.
Then I tied up the rip in the meal sack with a string, so it wouldn't
leak no more, and took it and my saw to the canoe again.
It was about dark now; so I dropped the canoe down the river under some
willows that hung over the bank, and waited for the moon to rise. I made
fast to a willow; then I took a bite to eat, and by and by laid down in
the canoe to smoke a pipe and lay out a plan. I says to myself, they'll
follow the track of that sackful of rocks to the shore and then drag the
river for me. And they'll follow that meal track to the lake and go
browsing down the creek that leads out of it to find the robbers that
killed me and took the things. They won't ever hunt the river for
anything but my dead carcass. They'll soon get tired of that, and won't
bother no more about me. All right; I can stop anywhere I want to.
Jackson's Island is good enough for me; I know that island pretty well,
and nobody ever comes there. And then I can paddle over to town nights,
and slink around and pick up things I want. Jackson's Island's the place.
I was pretty tired, and the first thing I knowed I was asleep. When I
woke up I didn't know where I was for a minute. I set up and looked
around, a little scared. Then I remembered. The river looked miles and
miles across. The moon was so bright I could a counted the drift logs
that went a-slipping along, black and still, hundreds of yards out from
shore. Everything was dead quiet, and it looked late, and SMELT late.
You know what I mean--I don't know the words to put it in.
I took a good gap and a stretch, and was just going to unhitch and start
when I heard a sound away over the water. I listened. Pretty soon I
made it out. It was that dull kind of a regular sound that comes from
oars working in rowlocks when it's a still night. I peeped out through
the willow branches, and there it was--a skiff, away across the water. I
couldn't tell how many was in it. It kept a-coming, and when it was
abreast of me I see there warn't but one man in it. Think's I, maybe
it's pap, though I warn't expecting him. He dropped below me with the
current, and by and by he came a-swinging up shore in the easy water, and
he went by so close I could a reached out the gun and touched him. Well,
it WAS pap, sure enough--and sober, too, by the way he laid his oars.
I didn't lose no time. The next minute I was a-spinning down stream soft
but quick in the shade of the bank. I made two mile and a half, and then
struck out a quarter of a mile or more towards the middle of the river,
because pretty soon I would be passing the ferry landing, and people
might see me and hail me. I got out amongst the driftwood, and then laid
down in the bottom of the canoe and let her float. I laid there, and had
a good rest and a smoke out of my pipe, looking away into the sky; not a
cloud in it. The sky looks ever so deep when you lay down on your back
in the moonshine; I never knowed it before. And how far a body can hear
on the water such nights! I heard people talking at the ferry landing.
I heard what they said, too--every word of it. One man said it was
getting towards the long days and the short nights now. T'other one said
THIS warn't one of the short ones, he reckoned--and then they laughed,
and he said it over again, and they laughed again; then they waked up
another fellow and told him, and laughed, but he didn't laugh; he ripped
out something brisk, and said let him alone. The first fellow said he
'lowed to tell it to his old woman--she would think it was pretty good;
but he said that warn't nothing to some things he had said in his time.
I heard one man say it was nearly three o'clock, and he hoped daylight
wouldn't wait more than about a week longer. After that the talk got
further and further away, and I couldn't make out the words any more; but
I could hear the mumble, and now and then a laugh, too, but it seemed a
long ways off.
I was away below the ferry now. I rose up, and there was Jackson's
Island, about two mile and a half down stream, heavy timbered and
standing up out of the middle of the river, big and dark and solid, like
a steamboat without any lights. There warn't any signs of the bar at the
head--it was all under water now.
It didn't take me long to get there. I shot past the head at a ripping
rate, the current was so swift, and then I got into the dead water and
landed on the side towards the Illinois shore. I run the canoe into a
deep dent in the bank that I knowed about; I had to part the willow
branches to get in; and when I made fast nobody could a seen the canoe
from the outside.
I went up and set down on a log at the head of the island, and looked out
on the big river and the black driftwood and away over to the town, three
mile away, where there was three or four lights twinkling. A monstrous
big lumber-raft was about a mile up stream, coming along down, with a
lantern in the middle of it. I watched it come creeping down, and when
it was most abreast of where I stood I heard a man say, "Stern oars,
there! heave her head to stabboard!" I heard that just as plain as if
the man was by my side.
There was a little gray in the sky now; so I stepped into the woods, and
laid down for a nap before breakfast.
THE sun was up so high when I waked that I judged it was after eight
o'clock. I laid there in the grass and the cool shade thinking about
things, and feeling rested and ruther comfortable and satisfied. I could
see the sun out at one or two holes, but mostly it was big trees all
about, and gloomy in there amongst them. There was freckled places on
the ground where the light sifted down through the leaves, and the
freckled places swapped about a little, showing there was a little breeze
up there. A couple of squirrels set on a limb and jabbered at me very
I was powerful lazy and comfortable--didn't want to get up and cook
breakfast. Well, I was dozing off again when I thinks I hears a deep
sound of "boom!" away up the river. I rouses up, and rests on my elbow
and listens; pretty soon I hears it again. I hopped up, and went and
looked out at a hole in the leaves, and I see a bunch of smoke laying on
the water a long ways up--about abreast the ferry. And there was the
ferryboat full of people floating along down. I knowed what was the
matter now. "Boom!" I see the white smoke squirt out of the ferryboat's
side. You see, they was firing cannon over the water, trying to make my
carcass come to the top.
I was pretty hungry, but it warn't going to do for me to start a fire,
because they might see the smoke. So I set there and watched the
cannon-smoke and listened to the boom. The river was a mile wide there,
and it always looks pretty on a summer morning--so I was having a good
enough time seeing them hunt for my remainders if I only had a bite to
eat. Well, then I happened to think how they always put quicksilver in
loaves of bread and float them off, because they always go right to the
drownded carcass and stop there. So, says I, I'll keep a lookout, and if
any of them's floating around after me I'll give them a show. I changed
to the Illinois edge of the island to see what luck I could have, and I
warn't disappointed. A big double loaf come along, and I most got it
with a long stick, but my foot slipped and she floated out further. Of
course I was where the current set in the closest to the shore--I knowed
enough for that. But by and by along comes another one, and this time I
won. I took out the plug and shook out the little dab of quicksilver,
and set my teeth in. It was "baker's bread"--what the quality eat; none
of your low-down corn-pone.
I got a good place amongst the leaves, and set there on a log, munching
the bread and watching the ferry-boat, and very well satisfied. And then
something struck me. I says, now I reckon the widow or the parson or
somebody prayed that this bread would find me, and here it has gone and
done it. So there ain't no doubt but there is something in that thing
--that is, there's something in it when a body like the widow or the parson
prays, but it don't work for me, and I reckon it don't work for only just
the right kind.
I lit a pipe and had a good long smoke, and went on watching. The
ferryboat was floating with the current, and I allowed I'd have a chance
to see who was aboard when she come along, because she would come in
close, where the bread did. When she'd got pretty well along down
towards me, I put out my pipe and went to where I fished out the bread,
and laid down behind a log on the bank in a little open place. Where the
log forked I could peep through.
By and by she come along, and she drifted in so close that they could a
run out a plank and walked ashore. Most everybody was on the boat. Pap,
and Judge Thatcher, and Bessie Thatcher, and Jo Harper, and Tom Sawyer,
and his old Aunt Polly, and Sid and Mary, and plenty more. Everybody was
talking about the murder, but the captain broke in and says:
"Look sharp, now; the current sets in the closest here, and maybe he's
washed ashore and got tangled amongst the brush at the water's edge. I
hope so, anyway."
"I didn't hope so. They all crowded up and leaned over the rails, nearly
in my face, and kept still, watching with all their might. I could see
them first-rate, but they couldn't see me. Then the captain sung out:
"Stand away!" and the cannon let off such a blast right before me that it
made me deef with the noise and pretty near blind with the smoke, and I
judged I was gone. If they'd a had some bullets in, I reckon they'd a
got the corpse they was after. Well, I see I warn't hurt, thanks to
goodness. The boat floated on and went out of sight around the shoulder
of the island. I could hear the booming now and then, further and
further off, and by and by, after an hour, I didn't hear it no more. The
island was three mile long. I judged they had got to the foot, and was
giving it up. But they didn't yet a while. They turned around the foot
of the island and started up the channel on the Missouri side, under
steam, and booming once in a while as they went. I crossed over to that
side and watched them. When they got abreast the head of the island they
quit shooting and dropped over to the Missouri shore and went home to the
I knowed I was all right now. Nobody else would come a-hunting after me.
I got my traps out of the canoe and made me a nice camp in the thick
woods. I made a kind of a tent out of my blankets to put my things under
so the rain couldn't get at them. I catched a catfish and haggled him
open with my saw, and towards sundown I started my camp fire and had
supper. Then I set out a line to catch some fish for breakfast.
When it was dark I set by my camp fire smoking, and feeling pretty well
satisfied; but by and by it got sort of lonesome, and so I went and set
on the bank and listened to the current swashing along, and counted the
stars and drift logs and rafts that come down, and then went to bed;
there ain't no better way to put in time when you are lonesome; you can't
stay so, you soon get over it.
And so for three days and nights. No difference--just the same thing.
But the next day I went exploring around down through the island. I was
boss of it; it all belonged to me, so to say, and I wanted to know all
about it; but mainly I wanted to put in the time. I found plenty
strawberries, ripe and prime; and green summer grapes, and green
razberries; and the green blackberries was just beginning to show. They
would all come handy by and by, I judged.
Well, I went fooling along in the deep woods till I judged I warn't far
from the foot of the island. I had my gun along, but I hadn't shot
nothing; it was for protection; thought I would kill some game nigh home.
About this time I mighty near stepped on a good-sized snake, and it went
sliding off through the grass and flowers, and I after it, trying to get
a shot at it. I clipped along, and all of a sudden I bounded right on to
the ashes of a camp fire that was still smoking.
My heart jumped up amongst my lungs. I never waited for to look further,
but uncocked my gun and went sneaking back on my tiptoes as fast as ever
I could. Every now and then I stopped a second amongst the thick leaves
and listened, but my breath come so hard I couldn't hear nothing else. I
slunk along another piece further, then listened again; and so on, and so
on. If I see a stump, I took it for a man; if I trod on a stick and
broke it, it made me feel like a person had cut one of my breaths in two
and I only got half, and the short half, too.
When I got to camp I warn't feeling very brash, there warn't much sand in
my craw; but I says, this ain't no time to be fooling around. So I got
all my traps into my canoe again so as to have them out of sight, and I
put out the fire and scattered the ashes around to look like an old last
year's camp, and then clumb a tree.
I reckon I was up in the tree two hours; but I didn't see nothing, I
didn't hear nothing--I only THOUGHT I heard and seen as much as a
thousand things. Well, I couldn't stay up there forever; so at last I
got down, but I kept in the thick woods and on the lookout all the time.
All I could get to eat was berries and what was left over from breakfast.
By the time it was night I was pretty hungry. So when it was good and
dark I slid out from shore before moonrise and paddled over to the
Illinois bank--about a quarter of a mile. I went out in the woods and
cooked a supper, and I had about made up my mind I would stay there all
night when I hear a PLUNKETY-PLUNK, PLUNKETY-PLUNK, and says to myself,
horses coming; and next I hear people's voices. I got everything into
the canoe as quick as I could, and then went creeping through the woods
to see what I could find out. I hadn't got far when I hear a man say:
"We better camp here if we can find a good place; the horses is about
beat out. Let's look around."
I didn't wait, but shoved out and paddled away easy. I tied up in the
old place, and reckoned I would sleep in the canoe.
I didn't sleep much. I couldn't, somehow, for thinking. And every time
I waked up I thought somebody had me by the neck. So the sleep didn't do
me no good. By and by I says to myself, I can't live this way; I'm
a-going to find out who it is that's here on the island with me; I'll
find it out or bust. Well, I felt better right off.
So I took my paddle and slid out from shore just a step or two, and then
let the canoe drop along down amongst the shadows. The moon was shining,
and outside of the shadows it made it most as light as day. I poked
along well on to an hour, everything still as rocks and sound asleep.
Well, by this time I was most down to the foot of the island. A little
ripply, cool breeze begun to blow, and that was as good as saying the
night was about done. I give her a turn with the paddle and brung her
nose to shore; then I got my gun and slipped out and into the edge of the
woods. I sat down there on a log, and looked out through the leaves. I
see the moon go off watch, and the darkness begin to blanket the river.
But in a little while I see a pale streak over the treetops, and knowed
the day was coming. So I took my gun and slipped off towards where I had
run across that camp fire, stopping every minute or two to listen. But I
hadn't no luck somehow; I couldn't seem to find the place. But by and
by, sure enough, I catched a glimpse of fire away through the trees. I
went for it, cautious and slow. By and by I was close enough to have a
look, and there laid a man on the ground. It most give me the fantods.
He had a blanket around his head, and his head was nearly in the fire. I
set there behind a clump of bushes in about six foot of him, and kept my
eyes on him steady. It was getting gray daylight now. Pretty soon he
gapped and stretched himself and hove off the blanket, and it was Miss
Watson's Jim! I bet I was glad to see him. I says:
"Hello, Jim!" and skipped out.
He bounced up and stared at me wild. Then he drops down on his knees,
and puts his hands together and says:
"Doan' hurt me--don't! I hain't ever done no harm to a ghos'. I alwuz
liked dead people, en done all I could for 'em. You go en git in de
river agin, whah you b'longs, en doan' do nuffn to Ole Jim, 'at 'uz awluz
Well, I warn't long making him understand I warn't dead. I was ever so
glad to see Jim. I warn't lonesome now. I told him I warn't afraid of
HIM telling the people where I was. I talked along, but he only set
there and looked at me; never said nothing. Then I says:
"It's good daylight. Le's get breakfast. Make up your camp fire good."
"What's de use er makin' up de camp fire to cook strawbries en sich
truck? But you got a gun, hain't you? Den we kin git sumfn better den
"Strawberries and such truck," I says. "Is that what you live on?"
"I couldn' git nuffn else," he says.
"Why, how long you been on the island, Jim?"
"I come heah de night arter you's killed."
"What, all that time?"
"And ain't you had nothing but that kind of rubbage to eat?"
"No, sah--nuffn else."
"Well, you must be most starved, ain't you?"
"I reck'n I could eat a hoss. I think I could. How long you ben on de
"Since the night I got killed."
"No! W'y, what has you lived on? But you got a gun. Oh, yes, you got a
gun. Dat's good. Now you kill sumfn en I'll make up de fire."
So we went over to where the canoe was, and while he built a fire in a
grassy open place amongst the trees, I fetched meal and bacon and coffee,
and coffee-pot and frying-pan, and sugar and tin cups, and the nigger was
set back considerable, because he reckoned it was all done with
witchcraft. I catched a good big catfish, too, and Jim cleaned him with
his knife, and fried him.
When breakfast was ready we lolled on the grass and eat it smoking hot.
Jim laid it in with all his might, for he was most about starved. Then
when we had got pretty well stuffed, we laid off and lazied. By and by
"But looky here, Huck, who wuz it dat 'uz killed in dat shanty ef it
Then I told him the whole thing, and he said it was smart. He said Tom
Sawyer couldn't get up no better plan than what I had. Then I says:
"How do you come to be here, Jim, and how'd you get here?"
He looked pretty uneasy, and didn't say nothing for a minute. Then he
"Maybe I better not tell."
"Well, dey's reasons. But you wouldn' tell on me ef I uz to tell you,
would you, Huck?"
"Blamed if I would, Jim."
"Well, I b'lieve you, Huck. I--I RUN OFF."
"But mind, you said you wouldn' tell--you know you said you wouldn' tell,
"Well, I did. I said I wouldn't, and I'll stick to it. Honest INJUN, I
will. People would call me a low-down Abolitionist and despise me for
keeping mum--but that don't make no difference. I ain't a-going to tell,
and I ain't a-going back there, anyways. So, now, le's know all about
"Well, you see, it 'uz dis way. Ole missus--dat's Miss Watson--she pecks
on me all de time, en treats me pooty rough, but she awluz said she
wouldn' sell me down to Orleans. But I noticed dey wuz a nigger trader
roun' de place considable lately, en I begin to git oneasy. Well, one
night I creeps to de do' pooty late, en de do' warn't quite shet, en I
hear old missus tell de widder she gwyne to sell me down to Orleans, but
she didn' want to, but she could git eight hund'd dollars for me, en it
'uz sich a big stack o' money she couldn' resis'. De widder she try to
git her to say she wouldn' do it, but I never waited to hear de res'. I
lit out mighty quick, I tell you.
"I tuck out en shin down de hill, en 'spec to steal a skift 'long de sho'
som'ers 'bove de town, but dey wuz people a-stirring yit, so I hid in de
ole tumble-down cooper-shop on de bank to wait for everybody to go 'way.
Well, I wuz dah all night. Dey wuz somebody roun' all de time. 'Long
'bout six in de mawnin' skifts begin to go by, en 'bout eight er nine
every skift dat went 'long wuz talkin' 'bout how yo' pap come over to de
town en say you's killed. Dese las' skifts wuz full o' ladies en genlmen
a-goin' over for to see de place. Sometimes dey'd pull up at de sho' en
take a res' b'fo' dey started acrost, so by de talk I got to know all
'bout de killin'. I 'uz powerful sorry you's killed, Huck, but I ain't
no mo' now.
"I laid dah under de shavin's all day. I 'uz hungry, but I warn't
afeard; bekase I knowed ole missus en de widder wuz goin' to start to de
camp-meet'n' right arter breakfas' en be gone all day, en dey knows I
goes off wid de cattle 'bout daylight, so dey wouldn' 'spec to see me
roun' de place, en so dey wouldn' miss me tell arter dark in de evenin'.
De yuther servants wouldn' miss me, kase dey'd shin out en take holiday
soon as de ole folks 'uz out'n de way.
"Well, when it come dark I tuck out up de river road, en went 'bout two
mile er more to whah dey warn't no houses. I'd made up my mine 'bout
what I's agwyne to do. You see, ef I kep' on tryin' to git away afoot,
de dogs 'ud track me; ef I stole a skift to cross over, dey'd miss dat
skift, you see, en dey'd know 'bout whah I'd lan' on de yuther side, en
whah to pick up my track. So I says, a raff is what I's arter; it doan'
MAKE no track.
"I see a light a-comin' roun' de p'int bymeby, so I wade' in en shove' a
log ahead o' me en swum more'n half way acrost de river, en got in
'mongst de drift-wood, en kep' my head down low, en kinder swum agin de
current tell de raff come along. Den I swum to de stern uv it en tuck
a-holt. It clouded up en 'uz pooty dark for a little while. So I clumb
up en laid down on de planks. De men 'uz all 'way yonder in de middle,
whah de lantern wuz. De river wuz a-risin', en dey wuz a good current;
so I reck'n'd 'at by fo' in de mawnin' I'd be twenty-five mile down de
river, en den I'd slip in jis b'fo' daylight en swim asho', en take to
de woods on de Illinois side.
"But I didn' have no luck. When we 'uz mos' down to de head er de islan'
a man begin to come aft wid de lantern, I see it warn't no use fer to
wait, so I slid overboard en struck out fer de islan'. Well, I had a
notion I could lan' mos' anywhers, but I couldn't--bank too bluff. I 'uz
mos' to de foot er de islan' b'fo' I found' a good place. I went into de
woods en jedged I wouldn' fool wid raffs no mo', long as dey move de
lantern roun' so. I had my pipe en a plug er dog-leg, en some matches in
my cap, en dey warn't wet, so I 'uz all right."
"And so you ain't had no meat nor bread to eat all this time? Why didn't
you get mud-turkles?"
"How you gwyne to git 'm? You can't slip up on um en grab um; en how's a
body gwyne to hit um wid a rock? How could a body do it in de night? En
I warn't gwyne to show mysef on de bank in de daytime."
"Well, that's so. You've had to keep in the woods all the time, of
course. Did you hear 'em shooting the cannon?"
"Oh, yes. I knowed dey was arter you. I see um go by heah--watched um
thoo de bushes."
Some young birds come along, flying a yard or two at a time and lighting.
Jim said it was a sign it was going to rain. He said it was a sign when
young chickens flew that way, and so he reckoned it was the same way when
young birds done it. I was going to catch some of them, but Jim wouldn't
let me. He said it was death. He said his father laid mighty sick once,
and some of them catched a bird, and his old granny said his father would
die, and he did.
And Jim said you mustn't count the things you are going to cook for
dinner, because that would bring bad luck. The same if you shook the
table-cloth after sundown. And he said if a man owned a beehive and that
man died, the bees must be told about it before sun-up next morning, or
else the bees would all weaken down and quit work and die. Jim said bees
wouldn't sting idiots; but I didn't believe that, because I had tried
them lots of times myself, and they wouldn't sting me.
I had heard about some of these things before, but not all of them. Jim
knowed all kinds of signs. He said he knowed most everything. I said it
looked to me like all the signs was about bad luck, and so I asked him if
there warn't any good-luck signs. He says:
"Mighty few--an' DEY ain't no use to a body. What you want to know when
good luck's a-comin' for? Want to keep it off?" And he said: "Ef you's
got hairy arms en a hairy breas', it's a sign dat you's agwyne to be
rich. Well, dey's some use in a sign like dat, 'kase it's so fur ahead.
You see, maybe you's got to be po' a long time fust, en so you might git
discourage' en kill yo'sef 'f you didn' know by de sign dat you gwyne to
be rich bymeby."
"Have you got hairy arms and a hairy breast, Jim?"
"What's de use to ax dat question? Don't you see I has?"
"Well, are you rich?"
"No, but I ben rich wunst, and gwyne to be rich agin. Wunst I had foteen
dollars, but I tuck to specalat'n', en got busted out."
"What did you speculate in, Jim?"
"Well, fust I tackled stock."
"What kind of stock?"
"Why, live stock--cattle, you know. I put ten dollars in a cow. But I
ain' gwyne to resk no mo' money in stock. De cow up 'n' died on my
"So you lost the ten dollars."
"No, I didn't lose it all. I on'y los' 'bout nine of it. I sole de hide
en taller for a dollar en ten cents."
"You had five dollars and ten cents left. Did you speculate any more?"
"Yes. You know that one-laigged nigger dat b'longs to old Misto Bradish?
Well, he sot up a bank, en say anybody dat put in a dollar would git fo'
dollars mo' at de en' er de year. Well, all de niggers went in, but dey
didn't have much. I wuz de on'y one dat had much. So I stuck out for
mo' dan fo' dollars, en I said 'f I didn' git it I'd start a bank mysef.
Well, o' course dat nigger want' to keep me out er de business, bekase he
says dey warn't business 'nough for two banks, so he say I could put in
my five dollars en he pay me thirty-five at de en' er de year.
"So I done it. Den I reck'n'd I'd inves' de thirty-five dollars right
off en keep things a-movin'. Dey wuz a nigger name' Bob, dat had ketched
a wood-flat, en his marster didn' know it; en I bought it off'n him en
told him to take de thirty-five dollars when de en' er de year come; but
somebody stole de wood-flat dat night, en nex day de one-laigged nigger
say de bank's busted. So dey didn' none uv us git no money."
"What did you do with the ten cents, Jim?"
"Well, I 'uz gwyne to spen' it, but I had a dream, en de dream tole me to
give it to a nigger name' Balum--Balum's Ass dey call him for short; he's
one er dem chuckleheads, you know. But he's lucky, dey say, en I see I
warn't lucky. De dream say let Balum inves' de ten cents en he'd make a
raise for me. Well, Balum he tuck de money, en when he wuz in church he
hear de preacher say dat whoever give to de po' len' to de Lord, en boun'
to git his money back a hund'd times. So Balum he tuck en give de ten
cents to de po', en laid low to see what wuz gwyne to come of it."
"Well, what did come of it, Jim?"
"Nuffn never come of it. I couldn' manage to k'leck dat money no way; en
Balum he couldn'. I ain' gwyne to len' no mo' money 'dout I see de
security. Boun' to git yo' money back a hund'd times, de preacher says!
Ef I could git de ten CENTS back, I'd call it squah, en be glad er de
"Well, it's all right anyway, Jim, long as you're going to be rich again
some time or other."
"Yes; en I's rich now, come to look at it. I owns mysef, en I's wuth
eight hund'd dollars. I wisht I had de money, I wouldn' want no mo'."
I WANTED to go and look at a place right about the middle of the island
that I'd found when I was exploring; so we started and soon got to it,
because the island was only three miles long and a quarter of a mile
This place was a tolerable long, steep hill or ridge about forty foot
high. We had a rough time getting to the top, the sides was so steep and
the bushes so thick. We tramped and clumb around all over it, and by and
by found a good big cavern in the rock, most up to the top on the side
towards Illinois. The cavern was as big as two or three rooms bunched
together, and Jim could stand up straight in it. It was cool in there.
Jim was for putting our traps in there right away, but I said we didn't
want to be climbing up and down there all the time.
Jim said if we had the canoe hid in a good place, and had all the traps
in the cavern, we could rush there if anybody was to come to the island,
and they would never find us without dogs. And, besides, he said them
little birds had said it was going to rain, and did I want the things to
So we went back and got the canoe, and paddled up abreast the cavern, and
lugged all the traps up there. Then we hunted up a place close by to
hide the canoe in, amongst the thick willows. We took some fish off of
the lines and set them again, and begun to get ready for dinner.
The door of the cavern was big enough to roll a hogshead in, and on one
side of the door the floor stuck out a little bit, and was flat and a
good place to build a fire on. So we built it there and cooked dinner.
We spread the blankets inside for a carpet, and eat our dinner in there.
We put all the other things handy at the back of the cavern. Pretty soon
it darkened up, and begun to thunder and lighten; so the birds was right
about it. Directly it begun to rain, and it rained like all fury, too,
and I never see the wind blow so. It was one of these regular summer
storms. It would get so dark that it looked all blue-black outside, and
lovely; and the rain would thrash along by so thick that the trees off a
little ways looked dim and spider-webby; and here would come a blast of
wind that would bend the trees down and turn up the pale underside of the
leaves; and then a perfect ripper of a gust would follow along and set
the branches to tossing their arms as if they was just wild; and next,
when it was just about the bluest and blackest--FST! it was as bright as
glory, and you'd have a little glimpse of tree-tops a-plunging about away
off yonder in the storm, hundreds of yards further than you could see
before; dark as sin again in a second, and now you'd hear the thunder let
go with an awful crash, and then go rumbling, grumbling, tumbling, down
the sky towards the under side of the world, like rolling empty barrels
down stairs--where it's long stairs and they bounce a good deal, you
"Jim, this is nice," I says. "I wouldn't want to be nowhere else but
here. Pass me along another hunk of fish and some hot corn-bread."
"Well, you wouldn't a ben here 'f it hadn't a ben for Jim. You'd a ben
down dah in de woods widout any dinner, en gittn' mos' drownded, too; dat
you would, honey. Chickens knows when it's gwyne to rain, en so do de
The river went on raising and raising for ten or twelve days, till at
last it was over the banks. The water was three or four foot deep on the
island in the low places and on the Illinois bottom. On that side it was
a good many miles wide, but on the Missouri side it was the same old
distance across--a half a mile--because the Missouri shore was just a
wall of high bluffs.
Daytimes we paddled all over the island in the canoe, It was mighty cool
and shady in the deep woods, even if the sun was blazing outside. We
went winding in and out amongst the trees, and sometimes the vines hung
so thick we had to back away and go some other way. Well, on every old
broken-down tree you could see rabbits and snakes and such things; and
when the island had been overflowed a day or two they got so tame, on
account of being hungry, that you could paddle right up and put your hand
on them if you wanted to; but not the snakes and turtles--they would
slide off in the water. The ridge our cavern was in was full of them.
We could a had pets enough if we'd wanted them.
One night we catched a little section of a lumber raft--nice pine planks.
It was twelve foot wide and about fifteen or sixteen foot long, and the
top stood above water six or seven inches--a solid, level floor. We
could see saw-logs go by in the daylight sometimes, but we let them go;
we didn't show ourselves in daylight.
Another night when we was up at the head of the island, just before
daylight, here comes a frame-house down, on the west side. She was a
two-story, and tilted over considerable. We paddled out and got aboard
--clumb in at an upstairs window. But it was too dark to see yet, so we
made the canoe fast and set in her to wait for daylight.
The light begun to come before we got to the foot of the island. Then we
looked in at the window. We could make out a bed, and a table, and two
old chairs, and lots of things around about on the floor, and there was
clothes hanging against the wall. There was something laying on the
floor in the far corner that looked like a man. So Jim says:
But it didn't budge. So I hollered again, and then Jim says:
"De man ain't asleep--he's dead. You hold still--I'll go en see."
He went, and bent down and looked, and says:
"It's a dead man. Yes, indeedy; naked, too. He's ben shot in de back.
I reck'n he's ben dead two er three days. Come in, Huck, but doan' look
at his face--it's too gashly."
I didn't look at him at all. Jim throwed some old rags over him, but he
needn't done it; I didn't want to see him. There was heaps of old greasy
cards scattered around over the floor, and old whisky bottles, and a
couple of masks made out of black cloth; and all over the walls was the
ignorantest kind of words and pictures made with charcoal. There was two
old dirty calico dresses, and a sun-bonnet, and some women's underclothes
hanging against the wall, and some men's clothing, too. We put the lot
into the canoe--it might come good. There was a boy's old speckled straw
hat on the floor; I took that, too. And there was a bottle that had had
milk in it, and it had a rag stopper for a baby to suck. We would a took
the bottle, but it was broke. There was a seedy old chest, and an old
hair trunk with the hinges broke. They stood open, but there warn't
nothing left in them that was any account. The way things was scattered
about we reckoned the people left in a hurry, and warn't fixed so as to
carry off most of their stuff.
We got an old tin lantern, and a butcher-knife without any handle, and a
bran-new Barlow knife worth two bits in any store, and a lot of tallow
candles, and a tin candlestick, and a gourd, and a tin cup, and a ratty
old bedquilt off the bed, and a reticule with needles and pins and
beeswax and buttons and thread and all such truck in it, and a hatchet
and some nails, and a fishline as thick as my little finger with some
monstrous hooks on it, and a roll of buckskin, and a leather dog-collar,
and a horseshoe, and some vials of medicine that didn't have no label on
them; and just as we was leaving I found a tolerable good curry-comb, and
Jim he found a ratty old fiddle-bow, and a wooden leg. The straps was
broke off of it, but, barring that, it was a good enough leg, though it
was too long for me and not long enough for Jim, and we couldn't find the
other one, though we hunted all around.
And so, take it all around, we made a good haul. When we was ready to
shove off we was a quarter of a mile below the island, and it was pretty
broad day; so I made Jim lay down in the canoe and cover up with the
quilt, because if he set up people could tell he was a nigger a good ways
off. I paddled over to the Illinois shore, and drifted down most a half
a mile doing it. I crept up the dead water under the bank, and hadn't no
accidents and didn't see nobody. We got home all safe.
AFTER breakfast I wanted to talk about the dead man and guess out how he
come to be killed, but Jim didn't want to. He said it would fetch bad
luck; and besides, he said, he might come and ha'nt us; he said a man
that warn't buried was more likely to go a-ha'nting around than one that
was planted and comfortable. That sounded pretty reasonable, so I didn't
say no more; but I couldn't keep from studying over it and wishing I
knowed who shot the man, and what they done it for.
We rummaged the clothes we'd got, and found eight dollars in silver sewed
up in the lining of an old blanket overcoat. Jim said he reckoned the
people in that house stole the coat, because if they'd a knowed the money
was there they wouldn't a left it. I said I reckoned they killed him,
too; but Jim didn't want to talk about that. I says:
"Now you think it's bad luck; but what did you say when I fetched in the
snake-skin that I found on the top of the ridge day before yesterday?
You said it was the worst bad luck in the world to touch a snake-skin
with my hands. Well, here's your bad luck! We've raked in all this
truck and eight dollars besides. I wish we could have some bad luck like
this every day, Jim."
"Never you mind, honey, never you mind. Don't you git too peart. It's
a-comin'. Mind I tell you, it's a-comin'."
It did come, too. It was a Tuesday that we had that talk. Well, after
dinner Friday we was laying around in the grass at the upper end of the
ridge, and got out of tobacco. I went to the cavern to get some, and
found a rattlesnake in there. I killed him, and curled him up on the
foot of Jim's blanket, ever so natural, thinking there'd be some fun when
Jim found him there. Well, by night I forgot all about the snake, and
when Jim flung himself down on the blanket while I struck a light the
snake's mate was there, and bit him.
He jumped up yelling, and the first thing the light showed was the
varmint curled up and ready for another spring. I laid him out in a
second with a stick, and Jim grabbed pap's whisky-jug and begun to pour
He was barefooted, and the snake bit him right on the heel. That all
comes of my being such a fool as to not remember that wherever you leave
a dead snake its mate always comes there and curls around it. Jim told
me to chop off the snake's head and throw it away, and then skin the body
and roast a piece of it. I done it, and he eat it and said it would help
cure him. He made me take off the rattles and tie them around his wrist,
too. He said that that would help. Then I slid out quiet and throwed
the snakes clear away amongst the bushes; for I warn't going to let Jim
find out it was all my fault, not if I could help it.
Jim sucked and sucked at the jug, and now and then he got out of his head
and pitched around and yelled; but every time he come to himself he went
to sucking at the jug again. His foot swelled up pretty big, and so did
his leg; but by and by the drunk begun to come, and so I judged he was
all right; but I'd druther been bit with a snake than pap's whisky.
Jim was laid up for four days and nights. Then the swelling was all gone
and he was around again. I made up my mind I wouldn't ever take a-holt
of a snake-skin again with my hands, now that I see what had come of it.
Jim said he reckoned I would believe him next time. And he said that
handling a snake-skin was such awful bad luck that maybe we hadn't got to
the end of it yet. He said he druther see the new moon over his left
shoulder as much as a thousand times than take up a snake-skin in his
hand. Well, I was getting to feel that way myself, though I've always
reckoned that looking at the new moon over your left shoulder is one of
the carelessest and foolishest things a body can do. Old Hank Bunker
done it once, and bragged about it; and in less than two years he got
drunk and fell off of the shot-tower, and spread himself out so that he
was just a kind of a layer, as you may say; and they slid him edgeways
between two barn doors for a coffin, and buried him so, so they say, but
I didn't see it. Pap told me. But anyway it all come of looking at the
moon that way, like a fool.
Well, the days went along, and the river went down between its banks
again; and about the first thing we done was to bait one of the big hooks
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.