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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
CHAPTER 26: I Steal the King’s Plunder
After everybody leaves, the two frauds settle down in the house. They are shown their sleeping quarters. Mary Jane, one of the Wilks girls, and Huck have their meal in the kitchen. As they eat, she asks Huck questions about his life in England. Though he is caught off guard, he recovers quickly and answers her as best as he can with typical Huck exaggeration, but Mary Jane seems to still doubt Huck. She asks him to swear that his stories are true by placing his hand on a book, which he does since it is only a dictionary. Because of his promise, Mary Jane believes every word he has said.
When he sees how gullible and trusting the three girls are, Huck realizes that he is allowing two despicable frauds to rob them of their inheritance. He wonders if he should go to the doctor and confess, but gives up the idea. The only option for him is to take away the money from the Duke and Dauphin and return it to the girls. He goes into the Dauphin’s room to get the gold, but hears a noise and jumps into a closet. The Duke and Dauphin enter, arguing with each other. The Duke wants to flee with the money immediately; but the Dauphin intends to gather more money by disposing of the house and other assets. When they leave the room in a short while, Huck comes out of the closet, picks up the bag of gold, and goes to bed; but he does not sleep so he can guard the money.
Huck turns moralist in this chapter. He is concerned about the three nieces, whom he sees as simple, honest people who are being exploited. He judges the actions of the Duke and Dauphin as unethical and immoral. Huck’s disapproval finds expression in action. When he sees how trusting and innocent the girls are, he decides to help them by stealing the bag of gold away from the Duke and Dauphin and hiding it until he can return it to the girls. Huck’s essential goodness is seen here in his genuine effort to help three girls in distress. The chapter is also important because Huck no longer chooses to be an innocent bystander; he commits himself to helping the girls, even though it may put him in danger. Twain is foreshadowing the fact that Huck will later help Jim.
It is ironic that Huck, who has never cared much for money, gets drawn into the episode with the Wilks girls due to monetary considerations. He knows that the girls will be destitute if he fails to help. Once again, Huck’s instinctive understanding and kindness are evident.