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CHAPTER EIGHT (continued)
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 agoing 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 onto 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 set 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 tree-tops, 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 fan-tods. 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 awluz 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 yo’ fren’.”
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 strawbries.” “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.” “Yes-indeedy.” “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 reckon I could eat a hoss. I think I could. How long you ben on de islan’?” “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 coffeepot 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 cat-fish, 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 Jim says: “But looky here, Huck, who wuz it dat ‘uz killed in dat shanty, ef it warn’t you?” 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 says: “Maybe I better not tell.” “Why, Jim?” “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’t tell-you know you said you wouldn’t tell, Huck.” “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 agoing to tell, and I ain’t agoing back there anyways. So now, le’s know all about it.” “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 ole 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 of 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.