Well, pretty soon the old man
was up and around again, and then he went for Judge
Thatcher in the courts to make him give up that money,
and he went for me, too, for not stopping school.
He catched me a couple of times and thrashed me,
but I went to school just the same, and dodged him
or outrun him most of the time. I didn’t
want to go to school much before, but I reckoned I’d
go now to spite pap. That law trial was a slow
business appeared like they warn’t
ever going to get started on it; so every now and
then I’d borrow two or three dollars off of the
judge for him, to keep from getting a cowhiding.
Every time he got money he got drunk; and every time
he got drunk he raised Cain around town; and every
time he raised Cain he got jailed. He was just
suited this kind of thing was right in
He got to hanging around the widow’s
too much and so she told him at last that if he didn’t
quit using around there she would make trouble for
him. Well, wasn’t he mad? He
said he would show who was Huck Finn’s boss.
So he watched out for me one day in the spring, and
catched me, and took me up the river about three mile
in a skiff, and crossed over to the Illinois shore
where it was woody and there warn’t no houses
but an old log hut in a place where the timber was
so thick you couldn’t find it if you didn’t
know where it was.
He kept me with him all the time,
and I never got a chance to run off. We lived
in that old cabin, and he always locked the door and
put the key under his head nights. He had a
gun which he had stole, I reckon, and we fished and
hunted, and that was what we lived on. Every
little while he locked me in and went down to the
store, three miles, to the ferry, and traded fish
and game for whisky, and fetched it home and got drunk
and had a good time, and licked me. The widow
she found out where I was by and by, and she sent
a man over to try to get hold of me; but pap drove
him off with the gun, and it warn’t long after
that till I was used to being where I was, and liked
it all but the cowhide part.
It was kind of lazy and jolly, laying
off comfortable all day, smoking and fishing, and
no books nor study. Two months or more run along,
and my clothes got to be all rags and dirt, and I
didn’t see how I’d ever got to like it
so well at the widow’s, where you had to wash,
and eat on a plate, and comb up, and go to bed and
get up regular, and be forever bothering over a book,
and have old Miss Watson pecking at you all the time.
I didn’t want to go back no more. I had
stopped cussing, because the widow didn’t like
it; but now I took to it again because pap hadn’t
no objections. It was pretty good times up in
the woods there, take it all around.
But by and by pap got too handy with
his hick’ry, and I couldn’t stand it.
I was all over welts. He got to going away so
much, too, and locking me in. Once he locked
me in and was gone three days. It was dreadful
lonesome. I judged he had got drowned, and I
wasn’t ever going to get out any more.
I was scared. I made up my mind I would fix
up some way to leave there. I had tried to get
out of that cabin many a time, but I couldn’t
find no way. There warn’t a window to it
big enough for a dog to get through. I couldn’t
get up the chimbly; it was too narrow. The door
was thick, solid oak slabs. Pap was pretty careful
not to leave a knife or anything in the cabin when
he was away; I reckon I had hunted the place over
as much as a hundred times; well, I was most all the
time at it, because it was about the only way to put
in the time. But this time I found something
at last; I found an old rusty wood-saw without any
handle; it was laid in between a rafter and the clapboards
of the roof. I greased it up and went to work.
There was an old horse-blanket nailed against the
logs at the far end of the cabin behind the table,
to keep the wind from blowing through the chinks and
putting the candle out. I got under the table
and raised the blanket, and went to work to saw a
section of the big bottom log out big enough
to let me through. Well, it was a good long
job, but I was getting towards the end of it when I
heard pap’s gun in the woods. I got rid
of the signs of my work, and dropped the blanket and
hid my saw, and pretty soon pap come in.
Pap warn’t in a good humor so
he was his natural self. He said he was down
town, and everything was going wrong. His lawyer
said he reckoned he would win his lawsuit and get
the money if they ever got started on the trial; but
then there was ways to put it off a long time, and
Judge Thatcher knowed how to do it. And he said
people allowed there’d be another trial to get
me away from him and give me to the widow for my guardian,
and they guessed it would win this time. This
shook me up considerable, because I didn’t want
to go back to the widow’s any more and be so
cramped up and sivilized, as they called it.
Then the old man got to cussing, and cussed everything
and everybody he could think of, and then cussed them
all over again to make sure he hadn’t skipped
any, and after that he polished off with a kind of
a general cuss all round, including a considerable
parcel of people which he didn’t know the names
of, and so called them what’s-his-name when he
got to them, and went right along with his cussing.
He said he would like to see the widow
get me. He said he would watch out, and if they
tried to come any such game on him he knowed of a place
six or seven mile off to stow me in, where they might
hunt till they dropped and they couldn’t find
me. That made me pretty uneasy again, but only
for a minute; I reckoned I wouldn’t stay on hand
till he got that chance.
The old man made me go to the skiff
and fetch the things he had got. There was a
fifty-pound sack of corn meal, and a side of bacon,
ammunition, and a four-gallon jug of whisky, and an
old book and two newspapers for wadding, besides some
tow. I toted up a load, and went back and set
down on the bow of the skiff to rest. I thought
it all over, and I reckoned I would walk off with
the gun and some lines, and take to the woods when
I run away. I guessed I wouldn’t stay in
one place, but just tramp right across the country,
mostly night times, and hunt and fish to keep alive,
and so get so far away that the old man nor the widow
couldn’t ever find me any more. I judged
I would saw out and leave that night if pap got drunk
enough, and I reckoned he would. I got so full
of it I didn’t notice how long I was staying
till the old man hollered and asked me whether I was
asleep or drownded.
I got the things all up to the cabin,
and then it was about dark. While I was cooking
supper the old man took a swig or two and got sort
of warmed up, and went to ripping again. He
had been drunk over in town, and laid in the gutter
all night, and he was a sight to look at. A body
would a thought he was Adam he was just
all mud. Whenever his liquor begun to work he
most always went for the govment, this time he says:
“Call this a govment! why, just
look at it and see what it’s like. Here’s
the law a-standing ready to take a man’s son
away from him a man’s own son, which
he has had all the trouble and all the anxiety and
all the expense of raising. Yes, just as that
man has got that son raised at last, and ready to
go to work and begin to do suthin’ for him
and give him a rest, the law up and goes for him.
And they call that govment! That ain’t
all, nuther. The law backs that old Judge Thatcher
up and helps him to keep me out o’ my property.
Here’s what the law does: The law takes
a man worth six thousand dollars and up’ards,
and jams him into an old trap of a cabin like this,
and lets him go round in clothes that ain’t
fitten for a hog. They call that govment!
A man can’t get his rights in a govment like
this. Sometimes I’ve a mighty notion to
just leave the country for good and all. Yes,
and I told ’em so; I told old Thatcher
so to his face. Lots of ’em heard me, and
can tell what I said. Says I, for two cents
I’d leave the blamed country and never come
a-near it agin. Them’s the very words.
I says look at my hat if you call it a
hat but the lid raises up and the rest of
it goes down till it’s below my chin, and then
it ain’t rightly a hat at all, but more like
my head was shoved up through a jint o’ stove-pipe.
Look at it, says I such a hat for me
to wear one of the wealthiest men in this
town if I could git my rights.
“Oh, yes, this is a wonderful
govment, wonderful. Why, looky here. There
was a free nigger there from Ohio a mulatter,
most as white as a white man. He had the whitest
shirt on you ever see, too, and the shiniest hat;
and there ain’t a man in that town that’s
got as fine clothes as what he had; and he had a gold
watch and chain, and a silver-headed cane the
awfulest old gray-headed nabob in the State.
And what do you think? They said he was a p’fessor
in a college, and could talk all kinds of languages,
and knowed everything. And that ain’t the
wüst. They said he could vote when he
was at home. Well, that let me out. Thinks
I, what is the country a-coming to? It was ’lection
day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if
I warn’t too drunk to get there; but when they
told me there was a State in this country where they’d
let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I’ll
never vote agin. Them’s the very words
I said; they all heard me; and the country may rot
for all me I’ll never vote agin as
long as I live. And to see the cool way of that
nigger why, he wouldn’t a give me
the road if I hadn’t shoved him out o’
the way. I says to the people, why ain’t
this nigger put up at auction and sold? that’s
what I want to know. And what do you reckon
they said? Why, they said he couldn’t be
sold till he’d been in the State six months,
and he hadn’t been there that long yet.
There, now that’s a specimen.
They call that a govment that can’t sell a free
nigger till he’s been in the State six months.
Here’s a govment that calls itself a govment,
and lets on to be a govment, and thinks it is a govment,
and yet’s got to set stock-still for six whole
months before it can take a hold of a prowling, thieving,
infernal, white-shirted free nigger, and ”
Pap was agoing on so he never noticed
where his old limber legs was taking him to, so he
went head over heels over the tub of salt pork and
barked both shins, and the rest of his speech was all
the hottest kind of language mostly hove
at the nigger and the govment, though he give the
tub some, too, all along, here and there. He
hopped around the cabin considerable, first on one
leg and then on the other, holding first one shin
and then the other one, and at last he let out with
his left foot all of a sudden and fetched the tub
a rattling kick. But it warn’t good judgment,
because that was the boot that had a couple of his
toes leaking out of the front end of it; so now he
raised a howl that fairly made a body’s hair
raise, and down he went in the dirt, and rolled there,
and held his toes; and the cussing he done then laid
over anything he had ever done previous. He
said so his own self afterwards. He had heard
old Sowberry Hagan in his best days, and he said it
laid over him, too; but I reckon that was sort of
piling it on, maybe.
After supper pap took the jug, and
said he had enough whisky there for two drunks and
one delirium tremens. That was always his word.
I judged he would be blind drunk in about an hour,
and then I would steal the key, or saw myself out,
one or t’other. He drank and drank, and
tumbled down on his blankets by and by; but luck didn’t
run my way. He didn’t go sound asleep,
but was uneasy. He groaned and moaned and thrashed
around this way and that for a long time. At
last I got so sleepy I couldn’t keep my eyes
open all I could do, and so before I knowed what I
was about I was sound asleep, and the candle burning.
I don’t know how long I was
asleep, but all of a sudden there was an awful scream
and I was up. There was pap looking wild, and
skipping around every which way and yelling about
snakes. He said they was crawling up his legs;
and then he would give a jump and scream, and say
one had bit him on the cheek but I couldn’t
see no snakes. He started and run round and
round the cabin, hollering “Take him off! take
him off! he’s biting me on the neck!”
I never see a man look so wild in the eyes.
Pretty soon he was all fagged out, and fell down panting;
then he rolled over and over wonderful fast, kicking
things every which way, and striking and grabbing
at the air with his hands, and screaming and saying
there was devils a-hold of him. He wore out by
and by, and laid still a while, moaning. Then
he laid stiller, and didn’t make a sound.
I could hear the owls and the wolves away off in
the woods, and it seemed terrible still. He
was laying over by the corner. By and by he raised
up part way and listened, with his head to one side.
He says, very low:
“Tramp tramp tramp;
that’s the dead; tramp tramp tramp;
they’re coming after me; but I won’t go.
Oh, they’re here! don’t touch me don’t!
hands off they’re cold; let go.
Oh, let a poor devil alone!”
Then he went down on all fours and
crawled off, begging them to let him alone, and he
rolled himself up in his blanket and wallowed in under
the old pine table, still a-begging; and then he went
to crying. I could hear him through the blanket.
By and by he rolled out and jumped
up on his feet looking wild, and he see me and went
for me. He chased me round and round the place
with a clasp-knife, calling me the Angel of Death,
and saying he would kill me, and then I couldn’t
come for him no more. I begged, and told him
I was only Huck; but he laughed such a screechy
laugh, and roared and cussed, and kept on chasing
me up. Once when I turned short and dodged under
his arm he made a grab and got me by the jacket between
my shoulders, and I thought I was gone; but I slid
out of the jacket quick as lightning, and saved myself.
Pretty soon he was all tired out, and dropped down
with his back against the door, and said he would
rest a minute and then kill me. He put his knife
under him, and said he would sleep and get strong,
and then he would see who was who.
So he dozed off pretty soon.
By and by I got the old split-bottom chair and clumb
up as easy as I could, not to make any noise, and got
down the gun. I slipped the ramrod down it to
make sure it was loaded, then I laid it across the
turnip barrel, pointing towards pap, and set down
behind it to wait for him to stir. And how slow
and still the time did drag along.