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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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AFTER breakfast I wanted to talk about the dead man and guess out how he come to be killed, but Jim didn’t want to. He said it would fetch bad luck; and besides, he said, he might come and ha’nt us; he said a man that warn’t buried was more likely to go a-ha’nting around than one that was planted and comfortable. That sounded pretty reasonable, so I didn’t say no more; but I couldn’t keep from studying over it and wishing I knowed who shot the man, and what they done it for. After breakfast I wanted to talk about the dead man, to figure out how he had gotten killed. But Jim didn’t want to talk about it. He said it would bring bad luck. Besides, he said, the dead man might come and haunt us. He said that a man that hadn’t been buried was more likely to haunt people than one that was planted comfortably in the ground. That sounded reasonable, so I kept quiet about it. Still, I couldn’t help but think it over and wish I knew who had shot the man and why.
We rummaged the clothes we’d got, and found eight dollars in silver sewed up in the lining of an old blanket overcoat. Jim said he reckoned the people in that house stole the coat, because if they’d a knowed the money was there they wouldn’t a left it. I said I reckoned they killed him, too; but Jim didn’t want to talk about that. I says: We rummaged through the clothes we’d gotten and found eight dollars in silver coins sewn up in the lining of an old blanket overcoat. Jim said he figured the people in that house had stolen the coat because they wouldn’t have left it behind if they knew there was money in it. I said I figured they killed the dead man too, but Jim didn’t want to talk about that. I said:
“Now you think it’s bad luck; but what did you say when I fetched in the snake-skin that I found on the top of the ridge day before yesterday? You said it was the worst bad luck in the world to touch a snake-skin with my hands. Well, here’s your bad luck! We’ve raked in all this truck and eight dollars besides. I wish we could have some bad luck like this every day, Jim.” “Now you think it’s bad luck. But what did you say when I brought in the snakeskin that I found on the top of the ridge the day before yesterday? You said it was the worst luck in the world to touch a snakeskin with my hands. Well, here’s your bad luck! We’ve raked in all this loot and an extra eight dollars to go with it. I wish we could have had some bad luck like this every day, Jim.”
“Never you mind, honey, never you mind. Don’t you git too peart. It’s a-comin’. Mind I tell you, it’s a-comin’.” “Nevermind, honey, nevermind. Don’t get all worked up. The bad luck is coming, mind you. It’s coming.”
It did come, too. It was a Tuesday that we had that talk. Well, after dinner Friday we was laying around in the grass at the upper end of the ridge, and got out of tobacco. I went to the cavern to get some, and found a rattlesnake in there. I killed him, and curled him up on the foot of Jim’s blanket, ever so natural, thinking there’d be some fun when Jim found him there. Well, by night I forgot all about the snake, and when Jim flung himself down on the blanket while I struck a light the snake’s mate was there, and bit him. It did come. It was Tuesday when we had that conversation. Well, after dinner on Friday we were lying around in the grass at the upper end of the ridge and we ran out of tobacco. I went to the cave to get some more and I found a rattlesnake inside. I killed it and curled him up at the foot of Jim’s blanket. I made it look like it was alive, thinking it would make a good prank to play on Jim. Well, by night I had forgotten all about the snake. When Jim plopped down on the blanket while I lit the lantern, another snake, which had followed after its mate, was there and bit it him.
He jumped up yelling, and the first thing the light showed was the varmint curled up and ready for another spring. I laid him out in a second with a stick, and Jim grabbed pap’s whisky-jug and begun to pour it down. He jumped up yelling. The first thing the light of the lamp showed was the critter curled up and ready to strike again. I killed it in a second with a stick. Jim grabbed pap’s jug of whisky and began to drink it in gulps.
He was barefooted, and the snake bit him right on the heel. That all comes of my being such a fool as to not remember that wherever you leave a dead snake its mate always comes there and curls around it. Jim told me to chop off the snake’s head and throw it away, and then skin the body and roast a piece of it. I done it, and he eat it and said it would help cure him. He made me take off the rattles and tie them around his wrist, too. He said that that would help. Then I slid out quiet and throwed the snakes clear away amongst the bushes; for I warn’t going to let Jim find out it was all my fault, not if I could help it. Jim was barefoot, and the snake had bitten him right on the heel. And it all happened because I’d been a fool and forgotten that a dead snake’s mate always comes and curls around it. Jim told me to chop off the snake’s head and throw it away and then skin the body and roast a piece of it. He said it would help cure him. I did this, and he ate it. He also made me take off the rattles and tie them around his wrist; he said that would help. Then I quietly left the cave and threw the snakes far away in the bushes. I wasn’t about tot let Jim find out that this was all my fault if I could help it.
Jim sucked and sucked at the jug, and now and then he got out of his head and pitched around and yelled; but every time he come to himself he went to sucking at the jug again. His foot swelled up pretty big, and so did his leg; but by and by the drunk begun to come, and so I judged he was all right; but I’d druther been bit with a snake than pap’s whisky. Jim drank and drank from the jug. He would lose his mind and yell and jerk around every now and then. Every time he’d come to, he’d start drinking from the jug again. His foot and leg swelled up pretty big. But after he got good and drunk, I figured he was okay. Still, I’d rather be bitten by a snake than get drunk off pap’s whisky.
Jim was laid up for four days and nights. Then the swelling was all gone and he was around again. I made up my mind I wouldn’t ever take a-holt of a snake-skin again with my hands, now that I see what had come of it. Jim said he reckoned I would believe him next time. And he said that handling a snake-skin was such awful bad luck that maybe we hadn’t got to the end of it yet. He said he druther see the new moon over his left shoulder as much as a thousand times than take up a snake-skin in his hand. Well, I was getting to feel that way myself, though I’ve always reckoned that looking at the new moon over your left shoulder is one of the carelessest and foolishest things a body can do. Old Hank Bunker done it once, and bragged about it; and in less than two years he got drunk and fell off of the shot-tower, and spread himself out so that he was just a kind of a layer, as you may say; and they slid him edgeways between two barn doors for a coffin, and buried him so, so they say, but I didn’t see it. Pap told me. But anyway it all come of looking at the moon that way, like a fool. Jim was sick for four day and four nights. Then the swelling went down and he was able to move around again. Now that I’d seen the bad luck that came from it, I made up my mind never to handle a snakeskin with my bare hands again. Jim said he bet I would belive him next time. He said we might even be in for some more bad luck because handling a snakeskin brought so much of it. He said he’d rather see a new moon over his left shoulder a thousand times than pick up a snakeskin with his hand. Well, I was starting to feel that way myself, even though I’d always felt that looking at a new moon over your left shoulder was one of the most careless and foolish things a person could do. Old Hank Bunker did it once and bragged about it. In less than two years, he got so drunk that he fell off the shot-tower. He landed so hard that his body spread out over the ground and formed a flat layer, you could say. They had to bury him in the space between two barn doors because he was too flat for a coffin. That’s what pap said anyway, but I didn’t see it. Well, whatever the case, it happened because he’d been a foolish enough to look at the new moon that way.

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