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CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE (continued)
Why, it was astonishing, the way I felt as light as a feather, right straight off, and my troubles all gone. So I got a piece of paper and a pencil, all glad and excited, and set down and wrote: --Miss Watson your runaway nigger Jim is down here two mile below Pikesville and Mr. Phelps has got him and he will give him up for the reward if you send. HUCK FINN - I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking-thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking.
And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time; in the day, and in the nighttime, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him agin in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.
It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself: “All right, then, I’ll go to hell”- and tore it up.
It was awful thoughts, and awful words, but they was said. And I let them stay said; and never thought no more about reforming. I shoved the whole thing out of my head; and said I would take up wickedness again, which was in my line, being brung up to it, and the other warn’t. And for a starter, I would go to work and steal Jim out of slavery again; and if I could think up anything worse, I would do that, too; because as long as I was in, and in for good, I might as well go the whole hog.
Then I set to thinking over how to get at it, and turned over considerable many ways in my mind; and at last fixed up a plan that suited me. So then I took the bearings of a woody island that was down the river a piece, and as soon as it was fairly dark I crept out with my raft and went for it, and hid it there, and then turned in. I slept the night through, and got up before it was light, and had my breakfast, and put on my store clothes, and tied up some others and one thing or another in a bundle, and took the canoe and cleared for shore. I landed below where I judged was Phelps’s place, and hid my bundle in the woods, and then filled up the canoe with water, loaded rocks into her and sunk her where I could find her again when I wanted her, about a quarter of a mile below a little steam sawmill that was on the bank.
Then I struck up the road, and when I passed the mill I see a sign on it, “Phelps’s Sawmill,” and when I come to the farm-houses, two or three hundred yards further along, I kept my eyes peeled, but didn’t see nobody around, though it was good daylight, now. But I didn’t mind, because I didn’t want to see nobody just yet-I only wanted to get the lay of the land. According to my plan, I was going to turn up there from the village, not from below. So I just took a look, and shoved along, straight for town. Well, the very first man I see, when I got there, was the duke. He was sticking up a bill for the Royal Nonesuch-three-night performance-like the other time. They had the cheek, them frauds! I was right on him, before I could shirk. He looked astonished and says: “Hel-lo! Where’d you come from?” Then he says, kind of glad and eager, “Where’s the raft?- got her in a good place?” I says: “Why, that’s just what I was agoing to ask your grace.” Then he didn’t look so joyful-and says: “What was your idea for asking me?” he says.
“Well,” I says, “when I see the king in that doggery yesterday, I says to myself, we can’t get him home for hours, till he’s soberer; so I went a loafing around town to put in the time, and wait. A man up and offered me ten cents to help him pull a skiff over the river and back to fetch a sheep, and so I went along; but when we was dragging him to the boat, the man left me aholt of the rope and went behind him to shove him along, he was too strong for me, and jerked loose and run, and we after him. We didn’t have no dog, and so we had to chase him all over the country till we tired him out. We never got him till dark, then we fetched him over, and I started down for the raft. When I got there and see it was gone, I says to myself, ‘they’ve got into trouble and had to leave; and they’ve took my nigger, which is the only nigger I’ve got in the world, and now I’m in a strange country, and ain’t got no property no more, nor nothing, and no way to make my living’; so I set down and cried. I slept in the woods all night. But what did become of the raft then?- and Jim, poor Jim!” “Blamed if I know-that is, what’s become of the raft. That old fool had made a trade and got forty dollars, and when we found him in the doggery the loafers had matched half dollars with him and got every cent but what he’d spent for whisky; and when I got him home late last night and found the raft gone, we said, ‘That little rascal has stole our raft and shook us, and run off down the river.’” “I wouldn’t shake my nigger, would I?- the only nigger I had in the world, and the only property.” “We never thought of that. Fact is, I reckon we’d come to consider him our nigger; yes, we did consider him so-goodness knows we had trouble enough for him. So when we see the raft was gone, and we flat broke, there warn’t anything for it but to try the Royal Nonesuch another shake. And I’ve pegged along ever since, dry as a powderhorn. Where’s that ten cents? Give it here.” I had considerable money, so I give him ten cents, but begged him to spend it for something to eat, and give me some, because it was all the money I had, and I hadn’t had nothing to eat since yesterday. The next minute he whirls on me and says: “Do you reckon that nigger would blow on us? We’d skin him if he done that!” “How can he blow? Hain’t he run off.?” “No! That old fool sold him, and never divided with me, and the money’s gone.” “Sold him?” I says, and begun to cry; “why, he was my nigger, and that was my money. Where is he?- I want my nigger.” “Well, you can’t get your nigger, that’s all-so dry up your blubbering. Looky here-do you think you’d venture to blow on us? Blamed if I think I’d trust you.
Why, if you was to blow on us-” He stopped, but I never see the duke look so ugly out of his eyes before. I went on a-whimpering, and says: “I don’t want to blow on nobody; and I ain’t got no time to blow, nohow. I got to turn out and find my nigger.” He looked kinder bothered, and stood there with his bills fluttering on his arm, thinking, and wrinkling up his forehead. At last he says: “I’ll tell you something. We got to be here three days. If you’ll promise you won’t blow, and won’t let the nigger blow, 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 when he stopped, that way, and begun to study and think agin, I reckoned he was changing his mind. And so he was. He wouldn’t trust me; he wanted to make sure of having me out of the way the whole three days.
So pretty soon he says: “The man that bought him is named Abram FosterAbram G. Foster-and he lives forty mile back here 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 now; and don’t lose any time about it, neither, nor do any gabbling by the way. Just keep a tight tongue in your head and move right along, and then you won’t get into trouble with us, d’ye hear?” That was the order I wanted, and that was the one I played for. I wanted to be left free to work my plans.
“So clear out,” he says; “and can tell Mr. Foster whatever you want to.
Maybe you can get him to believe that Jim is your nigger-some idiots don’t require documents-leastways I’ve heard there’s such down South here. And when you tell him the handbill and the reward’s bogus, maybe he’ll believe you when you explain to him what the idea was for getting ‘em out. Go ‘long, now, and tell him anything you want to; but mind you don’t work your jaw any between here and there.”
So I left, and struck for the back country. I didn’t look around, but I kinder felt like he was watching me. But I knowed I could tire him out at that. I went straight out in the country as much as a mile, before I stopped; then I doubled back through the woods towards Phelps’s. I reckoned I better start in on my plan straight off, without fooling around, because I wanted to stop Jim’s mouth till these fellows could get away. I didn’t want no trouble with their kind. I’d seen all I wanted to of them, and wanted to get entirely shut of them.