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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 4

 

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 4
 
PART I
 
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. The place was a long, steep hill about forty feet high. We had a rough time getting to the top, the bushes were so thick but we climbed all over it, and by and by found a big cave in the rock, almost at the top on the Illinois side. The cave was as big as two or three rooms put together, and Jim could stand up straight in it. It was cold 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 all the time.
 
Jim said if we had the canoe hid in a good place and had all the traps in the cave we could rush there if anybody came to the island, and they would never find us without dogs. And, be­sides, he said those little birds had said it was going to rain, and did I want the things to get wet?
 
So we went back and got the canoe, and finally dragged all the things up there. Then we hunted up a good place close by to hide the canoe in, among some thick trees. We took some fish off the lines and then set the lines again, and began to get ieady for dinner.
 
We spread our blankets inside the cave for a carpet, and built a fire, and ate our dinner there. Pretty soon the sky grew dark, and it began to thunder and lightning so the birds were right. Directly it began to rain, and it rained so hard, and I never saw the wind blow so. It was one of those summer storms and was pretty as a picture to watch. One minute the sky was blue and black, and then, when it was bluest and blackest- flash! it was as bright as morning.
 
“Jim, this is nice,” I says. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here. Pass me along another piece of fish and some hot corn bread.”
 
The river went on rising for ten or twelve days more, until at last it was over its banks. The water was three or four feet deep on the island in certain low places and sometimes during the day we paddled all over the island in the canoe. We went wind­ing in and out among the trees and sometimes the branches hung down so thick we had to back away and go some other way.
 
One night we caught a fairly good raft nice pine boards floating down the river. It was twelve feet wide and about fif­teen feet long, and the top stood above water six or seven inches  a solid, level floor. We saw many other things float by during the day, but we let them go; we didn’t dare show ourselves on the river in the daylight.
 
Another night when we were up at the head of the island, just before sunup, here comes a frame house down the river on the west side. It was a two-story house and was leaning far over to one side. We paddled over and got on board. We looked in at an upstairs window. We could make out a bed, and a table, and two old chairs, and lots of things lying around on the floor. There was something in the far corner that looked like a man. Jim called to him but there was no answer. So I yelled again and Jim says:
 
“That man ain’t asleep he’s dead. You hold still I’ll climb in and see.”
 
So Jim went into the room, and bent down and looked, and says:
 
“It’s a dead man. Yes and naked, too. He’s been shot in the back. He’s been dead two or three days. Come in, Huck, but don’t look at his face. It’s too awful.”
 
I didn’t look at him at all. Jim threw some old rags over him, but he needn’t have done it I didn’t want to see him. There were playing cards scattered all over the floor, and old whiskey bottles. There were two old dirty dresses and a woman’s hat and some underclothes hanging on the wall, and some men’s clothes too. We put the lot into the canoe it might come in good. There were a lot of other things such as an old sea chest and a hair- trunk with the lock broken. It looked as though someone had left in a hurry, and wasn’t in any position to carry off most of the stuff. - Scattered about on the floor there were also several dollars in loose change, which we naturally picked up.
 
We got an old lantern and butcher knife without a handle, some candles, needles and pins and such things. And so, take it all around, we didn’t do badly. We piled everything into the canoe, and when we were ready to leave were about a quarter of a mile below the island, and it was pretty broad day. So I made Jim lie down in the canoe and cover himself with a blan­ket, because if he sat up people could tell he was a Negro a long way off. Then I paddled over to the Illinois shore and crept up along the dead water under the bank. Then I cut across fast to the island and had no accidents and didn’t see anybody. We got home safe.
 
Well, the days went along, and the river went down between its banks again. Jim was bitten by a snake and was laid up for four days and four nights. Then the swelling was all gone and he was around again. I said that things were getting a little slow and dull and I wanted to stir them up some way. I said I would like to slip over the river and find out what was going on. Jim liked the idea; 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 those old things and dress up like a girl? That was a good idea too. So we fixed up one of the dresses and I turned up my trouser legs to the knees. Jim pinned up the dress behind with fish hooks and it was a fair fit. I put on a woman's hat and tied it under my chin so as to hide my face as much as possible. Jim said nobody would know me, even in the daytime, hardly. I practiced around all day to get therhang of things, and by and by Jim said I could do pretty well, only Jim said I didn’t walk like a girl; and he said I must stop pulling up my gown to get at my trouser pocket. I took notice and did better.
 
I started up the Illinois shore just after dark and then started to cut cross the river to St. Petersburg, which is the town where Jim and I come from. The drift of the current brought me in just below the ferry landing, and I tied up and started along the bank. There was a light burning in a little cabin that hadn’t been lived in for a long time, and I wondered who had taken quar­ters there. I sneaked up and looked in at the window. There was a woman about forty years old sitting inside and sewing by the light of a candle. I didn’t know her face. She was a stranger, for you couldn’t meet a face in that town that I didn’t know. Now this was lucky because I was weakening. I was getting afraid people might recognize my voice and find me out. But if this woman had been in town only a few days she would be able to tell me everything I wanted to know, so I knocked at the door and made up my mind I wouldn’t forget I was a girl.
 
But, say, that woman was pretty smart and I think she knew I wasn’t a girl from the start though she didn’t say anything right away. She invited me in and told me to sit down and asked me what my name was. I told her it was Sarah Williams. Then we talked and I was glad just to let her chatter right along. Pretty soon she told about me and Tom Sawyer finding the twelve thousand dollars (only she got it twenty) and about Pap, and what a hard lot he was; and at last she got down to where I was murdered. I asked her who did it, and she said that some people thought that Pap did it just to get my money, and they were ready to lynch him, but he had disappeared a day or two after the murder and nobody had seen him since. Other people said a runaway Negro named Jim had done it. This Negro had run off the very night Huck Finn was killed. There was a reward out for him of three hundred dollars.
“Why he ” I said—then I stopped. I decided I better keep still. She went right on and never noticed I had said anything. She was back talking about Pap again.
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. What place did Huck and Jim go to look at?
2. Why did Jim want to put all their things in the cave?
3. What happened after they ate their dinner?
4. Why were they able to take the canoe all over the island?
5. What did they see coming down the river one night?
What did they find inside the house?
2. What did they take from the house?
3. Why did Huck decide to go across the river?
4. How did Huck dress up to go into town?
5. Who did Huck see in a.cabin near the river bank?
6. Why did Huck think it was lucky that the woman was a stranger?
7. What did the woman tell him?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
 
steep                                     close by
bread                                     back away
yell                                         on board
bend                                     ben down
scatter                                  at all
chin                                       sit up
chatter                                  be laid up
 
PART II
 
“People think now,” she said, “that old man Finn killed his boy and fixed things so that folks would think robbers did it. So they ain’t looking for him back until this thing blows over. You can’t prove anything on him, you know. Then, when every­thing’s quieted down, he’ll walk into Huck’s money as easy as anything, without having to bother with any lawsuit.”
 
“Yes, I guess so,” I said. “I don’t see anything to stop him. Has everybody given up thinking the Negro did it?”
 
“Oh, no, not everybody! A good many still think he did it.” “And are they still looking for him?”
 
“Well, you’re innocent, ain’t you? Does three hundred dol­lars reward lie around every day for people to pick up? Some folks think the Negro isn’t far from here. I’m one of them though I haven’t said much about it to anyone. A few days ago I was talking with an old couple who live nearby, and they hap­pened to say that hardly anybody ever goes to that island over there that they call Jackson’s Island. And nobody lives there either. Well, that set me to thinking because I’d seen smoke over there just a day or two before. So I says to myself, probably that Negro is hiding over there. Anyway, it’s worth the trouble to give the place the once-over.
 
So my husband and another man are going over there in the morning to look around.”
 
I had got so uneasy I couldn’t sit still. I had to do something with my hands, so I took up a needle off the table and began to thread 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 at the trouble I was having. There happened to be several rats running around the cabin, and so now the woman picked up a piece of lead which was lying on the table and threw it to me.
 
“Here, catch this,” she said, “and try your hand at killing one of those rats.”
 
I caught the piece of lead easily enough, and the first rat that showed his nose I let drive and if he had stayed where he was he’d have been a pretty sick rat. The woman said that was very good and that probably I’d hit the next one. Then she asked me what my name was again.
 
“M Mary Williams!” I said.
 
Somehow it didn’t seem to me that I said it was Mary before, but I couldn’t remember exactly.
 
“Child, I thought you said it was Sarah when you first came in.”
 
“Oh, yes’m, I did. Sarah Mary Williams. Sarah’s my first name. Some people call me Sarah and some call me Mary.” “Oh, that’s the way it is is it?” And then she looked at me straight in the face very pleasant, and says, “Come, now. What’s your real name? Is it Bill, or Tom, or Bob or what is it?”
 
I guess I shook like a leaf, and I didn’t know hardly what to do but I said, “Please don’t make fun of a poor girl like me, ma’am. I guess maybe I better be on my way.”
 
“No, you don’t,” she says. “Sit down and tell me all about your secret. You can trust me, and I’ll keep it. And what’s more, I’ll help you. I suppose you’re a runaway apprentice, that’s all. Well, there ain’t any harm in that. You’ve been treated badly, and you made up your mind to run away. Isn’t that it, boy?”
 
So I said it wouldn’t be any use to pretend any longer, and I would just make a clean breast and tell her everything. So I told her my mother and father were dead and the law bound me out to a mean old farmer thirty miles back from the river, and he treated me so bad I couldn’t stand it any longer, so I took a chance and stole some of his daughter’s clothes and cleared out, and I had been three nights coming the thirty miles. I said I had an uncle in the next town and I was on my way to find him.
“You poor boy,” she says, “hold on a minute. I’ll put you up a few things to eat and you can take them with you. What’s your real name, now?”
 
“George Peters, ma’am!”
 
“Well, try to remember it, George. Don’t forget and tell me it’s Alexander before you go, and then say it’s George Alexan­der when I catch you. And don’t visit any more women in that dress. You don’t make a very good girl, but you might fool men, maybe. And, son, when you try to thread a needle don’t hold the thread still and bring the needle to it; hold the needle still and poke the thread at it. That’s the way a woman does, but a man always does it the other way. And when you throw at a rat or at anything else, raise your hand over your head as awkward as you can, and miss your rat about six or seven feet. Don’t throw 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 doesn’t bring them quick to­gether, the way you did when you caught that piece of lead I threw to you. Why, I spotted you as a boy when you were threading that needle; and I planned the other things, just to make certain. Now run along to your uncle, Sarah Mary Wil­liams George Alexander Peters, and if you get into any trouble you send word to Mrs. Judith Loftus that’s me, and I’ll do what I can to help you.”
 
Well, I got out of that cabin as fast as I could. I pretended to go up the road but soon doubled on my tracks and slipped back to where my canoe was, a good ways below the house. I jumped in, and was off in a hurry. I went directly to the island, tied up the canoe, then climbed up through the woods to the cave. There Jim lay, sound asleep on the ground.
 
“Get up and let’s get moving, Jim. There ain’t a minute to lose. They’re after us.”
 
Jim never asked any questions, but I told him what the wom­an said about her husband and another man coming in the morning to search the island. The way he worked the next half hour showed how scared he was. By that time everything we had in the world was on the raft, and we were ready to shove off from the place where we had it hidden.
 
I took the canoe out from the shore a ways and took a look; but if there was a boat around I couldn’t see it because it was still dark and only a few stars were shining. 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.
 
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
 
A. 1. What did the woman tell Huck about his father?
2. Why did she think that Jim might be nearby?
3. What made the woman suspicious about Huck?
4. How did she test him to find out whether he was a boy?
5. What was the story that Huck told her?
6. What advice did the woman give Huck about acting like a girl?
7. What was the woman’s name?
8. Where did Huck go when he left the woman?
9. How did Jim show how scared he was?
10. Where did Huck and Jim go?
 
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
 
thread                               the once- over
rat                                      make a clean breast of
apprentice                       look for
breast                              blow over
wrist                                 nearby
shove off                         try your hand at