The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 7
We didn’t dare stop again at any town for days and days just kept going down the river
We didn’t dare stop again at any town for days and days just kept going down the river. We were well down south now, and a mighty long ways from home. The trees had Spanish moss hanging down from them like long gray beards. It was the first time I had ever seen it growing, and it made the woods look strange and sad.
These rascals wanted to try putting on “The Royal Nonesuch” again, because there was so much money in it, but they were afraid maybe the news had worked down the river. So, instead, in one town they gave a lecture on the Evils of Strong Drink, but they didn’t even make enough for them both to get drunk on. In another place they started a kind of dancing school, but they didn’t know how to dance any more than a cow does, and almost before they knew it the people danced them out of town. Another time they tried public speaking, but the audience got up and gave them a good cursing, and drove them right out of the place. They also took turns at missionary work, and hypnotism, and doctoring, and telling fortunes, and a little of everything but they couldn’t seem to have any luck. So at last they got just about dead broke, and lay around the raft as she floated along, thinking and thinking, and never saying anything, a half a day at a time, and looking dreadfully blue and desperate.
But at last they changed and began to lay their heads together in the wigwam and talk low and confidential two or three hours at a time. Jim and I got uneasy. We didn’t like the looks of it. We judged they were studying some new trick or other. We turned it over in our minds and decided maybe they were going to break into someone’s house or store, or maybe go into the false-money business, or something like that. So then we were pretty scared, and made an agreement that we wouldn’t have anything to do with such actions, and if we ever got the least chance we would give them the slip and clear out and leave them behind.
Well, early one morning we hid the raft in a good safe place about two miles below an ugly little village named Pikesville, and the King he went ashore and told us all to stay hidden while he went up to town and smelled around to see if anybody had got 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 and wonder what has become of me and Jim and the raft, because we won’t be here.”) And he said if he wasn’t back by noon the Duke and I would know it was all right, and we were to come along.
So we stayed where we were. The Duke he worried and sweated around, and was in a mighty sour way. He scolded us for everything, and we couldn’t seem to do anything right. He found fault with every little thing. Something was stirring, I was sure of that. I was glad when noon came and no King we could have a change anyway and maybe the chance to get away that Jim and I were waiting for. So the Duke and I went up to the village, and hunted around for the King, and found him in the back room of a bar, very drunk, with a lot of loafers teasing him just for the sport of it. He was cursing them with all his strength, but he was so drunk he couldn’t walk or do anything to them. The Duke began to swear at him for being such an old fool, and tlje King began to answer back, and while they were busy this way I beat it and ran as fast as my legs could carry me down the river road toward the raft, for I saw our chance, and I made up my mind it would be a long day before they ever saw Jim or me again. I got there all out of breath but happy as could be, and sang out:
“Set her loose, Jim; we’re all right again.”
But there wasn't any answer. Jim was gone! I set up a shout, and ran this way and that in the woods, shouting again and again, but it was no use old Jim was gone. Then I sat down and cried. I couldn’t help it. I felt so lonesome without Jim. But I couldn’t sit still long. Pretty soon I went out on the road, trying to think what I better do, and I ran across a boy walking, and asked him if he’d seen a strange Negro, dressed so and so, and he said, yes, he had. Then I asked him where.
“Down to Silas Phelps’ place two miles below here,” he said. “He’s a runaway Negro, and they caught him. Were you lookin’ for him?”
“No,” I lied. “But I ran across him in the woods about two hours ago and he said he’d cut my heart out if I told on him. He told me to lie down and stay where I was, and I was afraid to come out.”
“Well,” he says, “you needn’t be afraid any more because they’ve got him. He ran off from down south and there’s a two hundred dollar reward for him. An old fellow a stranger- caught him first but he sold out his claim on him for forty dollars, because he’s got to go north and can’t wait to get the $200 reward. Think of that now. You can bet I’d wait, even if it took a couple of years.”
“But maybe there’s something not straight about it,” I said. “But it is, though it’s straight as can be. I saw the handbill myself. It tells all about the Negro exactly paints him like a picture, and tells the place he’s from down below New Orleans.”
So that was it. That was the plan those rascals had been figuring out. I went back to the raft and sat down to think. I thought and thought until my head hurt, but I couldn’t see any way out of the trouble. After all this long trip, and after all we had done for those frauds, here it was all come to nothing, everything ruined, because they could have the heart to play such a low trick on Jim, and make him a slave again, and among strangers too, just for forty dirty dollars.
I said to myself that, as long as Jim had to be a slave, it would be a thousand times better for him to be a slave at home where his family was. And so I’d write a letter to Tom Sawyer and tell him to tell Miss Watson where Jim was. But I soon gave up this idea for two reasons: Miss Watson would be mad and disgusted with Jim for running away, and she’d sell him straight down the river again. And even if she didn’t, everyone naturally looks down upon an ungrateful Negro, and they’d let Jim know it all the time, and so he’d always feel ashamed and disgraced.
And then think of me! It would get around that Huck Finn helped a Negro to get his freedom. If I were ever to see anyone from that town again I’d be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame. I knew it was wrong for me to help Jim to escape, and many times I had thought about this. Sometimes I even wanted to pray and ask the Lord to forgive me, but the words wouldn’t come. I guess I liked Jim too much. It was that way now. I got to thinking about our trip down the river, and I saw Jim before me all the time, in the day and during the night, in good weather and bad, and we floating along, talking and singing and laughing. I’d see him standing my watch at night, after the Duke and the King were with us, instead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping. And this wasn’t all because he was always doing everything he could for me and trying to make me more comfortable.
So now I just had to help Jim again, and I had to do it right away. I set to thinking how to get at it, and I turned over many ways in my mind and at last fixed upon a plan that suited me. I noted the position of a little island that was down the river a ways, and as soon as it was fairly dark I crept out with my raft and went for it and hid there, and then turned in. I slept the night through, and got up before it was light, and had my breakfast, and put on some store clothes that I had bought a few days before in a town back up the river, and tied up one thing and another in a package, and took the canoe and cleared for shore. I landed below where I judged Phelps’ place was, and hid my package in the woods, and then filled up the canoe with water, and loaded rocks into her and sank her where I could find her again when I wanted her.
Then I struck up the road I passed some houses, and I saw, from a sign outside one of them, that it was the Phelps’ place. There was no one around yet because it was still too early and the sun was just coming up. But this was all right because it was my plan to go to the village first and then turn up at Phelps’ later, as though I had just come down from the village. So I just took a look, and shoved along, straight for town. Well, the first man I saw when I got there was the Duke. He was sticking up a handbill for the “Royal Nonesuch” a three nights show- like that other time. They had the nerve, those frauds. I was right on him before he could get away. He looked surprised, and says: “Hello! Where’d you come from?” Then he adds, rather glad and eager, “Where is the raft got her in a good place?”
“Why that’s just what I was going to ask you,” I says.
Then he didn’t look so pleased. “What was your idea of asking me?” he says.
I explained it to him this way: “When I saw the King in that bar yesterday., I says to myself, the Duke won’t be able to get him home for hours, until he’s sober, so I went loafing around town to put in the time and wait. I started down towards the raft just before dark, but when I got there I saw it was gone. I says to myself, “They’ve got into trouble and had to leave: and they’ve taken the raft and my Negro, which is the only Negro I’ve got in the whole world, and now I’m in a strange country, and ain’t got any property of any kind, nor any way to make my living!’ So I sat down and cried. I slept in the woods all night. But what did become of the raft, then, if you fellows didn’t take it? and Jim poor Jim!”
“Blamed if I know that is, what’s become of the raft. That old fool made a trade and got forty dollars and then lost it gambling and getting drunk. When I got him home last night and found the raft gone, we both said, ‘That little rascal has stolen our raft and run off down the river.’ ”
“I wouldn’t go off and leave my Negro, would I the only Negro I had in the world, and the only property?”
“We never thought of that. That is, I guess we’d come to consider him our Negro. Yes, we did consider him so Heaven knows he gave us enough trouble. So when we saw the raft was gone, there wasn’t anything to do but give the ‘Royal Nonesuch’ another try. But, say, come to think of it you don’t think that Negro would tell on us? We’d skin him if he did that.” “How can he tell on you? Hasn’t he run off?”
“No. That old fool sold him, and never divided with me, and the money is gone.”
“Sold him!” I says, and began to cry. “Why, he was my Negro, and that was my money. Where is he? I want my Negro.” “Well, you can’t get your Negro, that’s all so stop your crying. Look here do you think you’d dare to tell on us? I don’t know whether I trust you. Why, if you were to tell on us ” The Duke stopped and I never saw him look so mean or ugly before.
“I don’t want to tell on anybody,” I says. “I only want to find my Negro.”
He stood thinking a minute; then at last he says: “I’ll tell you something. We’ve got to be here three days. If you promise you won’t tell anybody about us and won’t let the Negro say anything, 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 then he figured he had a better idea. He wouldn’t trust me. And pretty soon he says, “The man that bought him is named Abram Foster—Abram G. Foster—and he lives forty miles back 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 won’t, you’ll start right now, and don’t lose any time about it, nor do any talking along the way. Just keep quiet and you won’t get into any trouble with us, do you hear? You can tell Mr. Foster, when you get there, whatever you want about Jim. Maybe you can get him to believe Jim is your Negro. Tell him the handbill’s false and there’s no reward. But don’t say anything about us to anyone do you understand?” These were just the orders I was waiting for so I left at once and struck out for the b^ck-country. I didn’t look around for I felt the Duke was watching me. But I knew I could easily lose him anyway. I went straight out into the country as much as a mile before I stopped. Then I doubled back toward Phelps’. I decided I’d better start in on my plan right away without fooling around, because I wanted to stop Jim from doing any talking until these fellows could get away. I didn’t want any trouble with their kind. I’d seen enough of them, and wanted to get as far away from them as possible.
Comprehension, Discussion, and Vocabulary Review
A. 1. Why were the King and the Duke afraid to put on “The
Royal Nonesuch” again?
2. What were some of the other things they tried?
3. Why did Jim and Huck begin to get uneasy about the King and the Duke?
4. Where did they stop? What did the King tell them to do?
5. Where did they find the King? What condition was he in?
6. What chance did Huck see?
7. What did Huck find when he got back to the raft?
8. What did Huck find out from the boy he ran across?
9. What were some of the things that Huck thought about after he found out what happened to Jim?
10. What did Huck do the next morning?
11. Who did he meet in the village? What was that person doing?
12. Where did the Duke say that Huck could find Jim?
13. What did Huck do after he spoke to the Duke?
B. Use the following words and expressions in sentences of your own:
know how a little of
turn over in my mind clear out
run across out of breath out of order out of sight out of work