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Chapter 23

The Salvation of Muff Potter

AT LAST the sleepy atmosphere was stirred-and vigorously: the murder trial
came on in the court. It became the absorbing topic of village talk immediately.
Tom could not get away from it. Every reference to the murder sent a shudder to
his heart, for his troubled conscience and fears almost persuaded him that these
remarks were put forth in his hearing as “feelers”; he did not see how he could
be suspected of knowing anything about the murder, but still he could not be
comfortable in the midst of this gossip. It kept him in a cold shiver all the time.
He took Huck to a lonely place to have a talk with him. It would be some relief
to unseal his tongue for a little while; to divide his burden of distress with
another sufferer. Moreover, he wanted to assure himself that Huck had
remained discreet.

“Huck, have you ever told anybody about-that?” “’Bout what?” “You know
what.” “O-‘course I haven’t.” “Never a word?” “Never a solitary word, so help
me. What makes you ask?” “Well, I was afeard.”

“Why Tom Sawyer, we wouldn’t be alive two days if that got found out. You
know that.” Tom felt more comfortable. After a pause: “Huck, they couldn’t
anybody get you to tell, could they?” “Get me to tell? Why if I wanted that half-
breed devil to drownd me they could get me to tell. They ain’t no different
way.” “Well, that’s all right, then. I reckon we’re safe as long as we keep mum.
But let’s swear again, anyway. It’s more surer.” “I’m agreed.” So they swore
again with dread solemnities.

“What is the talk around, Huck? I’ve heard a power of it.” “Talk? Well, it’s just
Muff Potter, Muff Potter, Muff Potter all the time. It keeps me in a sweat,
constant, so’s I want to hide som’ers.” “That’s just the same way they go on
round me. I reckon he’s a goner. Don’t you feel sorry for him, sometimes?”
“Most always-most always. He ain’t no account; but then he hain’t ever done
anything to hurt anybody. Just fishes a little, to get money to get drunk on-and
loafs around considerable; but lord we all do that-leastways most of us,-
preachers and such like. But he’s kind of good-he give me half a fish, once,
when there warn’t enough for two; and lots of times he’s kind of stood by me
when I was out of luck.” “Well, he’s mended kites for me, Huck, and knitted
hooks on to my line. I wish we could get him out of there.” “My! we couldn’t get
him out Tom. And besides, It wouldn’t do any good; they’d ketch him again.”
“Yes-so they would. But I hate to hear ‘em abuse him so like the dickens when
he never done-that.” “I do too, Tom. Lord, I hear ‘em say he’s the bloodiest-
looking villain in this country, and they wonder he wasn’t ever hung before.”
“Yes, they talk like that, all the time. I’ve heard ‘em say that if he was to get free
they’d lynch him.” “And they’d do it, too.” The boys had a long talk, but it
brought them little comfort. As the twilight drew on, they found themselves
hanging about the neighborhood of the little isolated jail, perhaps with an
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