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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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“Yes, I reckon so, ’m. I don’t see nothing in the way of it. Has everybody quit thinking the nigger done it?” “Yes, I guess so, ma’am. I don’t see what would stop him. Has everyone stopped thinking that the n----- did it, then?”
“Oh, no, not everybody. A good many thinks he done it. But they’ll get the nigger pretty soon now, and maybe they can scare it out of him.” “Oh, no, not everyone. A lot of people still think he did it. But they’ll catch that n----- pretty soon, and then maybe they can scare a confession out of him”
“Why, are they after him yet?” “Well, have they started looking for him yet?”
“Well, you’re innocent, ain’t you! Does three hundred dollars lay around every day for people to pick up? Some folks think the nigger ain’t far from here. I’m one of them—but I hain’t talked it around. A few days ago I was talking with an old couple that lives next door in the log shanty, and they happened to say hardly anybody ever goes to that island over yonder that they call Jackson’s Island. Don’t anybody live there? says I. No, nobody, says they. I didn’t say any more, but I done some thinking. I was pretty near certain I’d seen smoke over there, about the head of the island, a day or two before that, so I says to myself, like as not that nigger’s hiding over there; anyway, says I, it’s worth the trouble to give the place a hunt. I hain’t seen any smoke sence, so I reckon maybe he’s gone, if it was him; but husband’s going over to see—him and another man. He was gone up the river; but he got back to-day, and I told him as soon as he got here two hours ago.” “Why, you’re pretty naïve, aren’t you! It isn’t every day that there’s a reward of three hundred dollars just waiting to be claimed! Some folks think the n----- isn’t far from here. That’s what I think, but I haven’t talked to many people about it. A few days ago I was talking with an older couple that lives in the log cabin next door, and they said that hardly anybody ever goes to that island over there called Jackson’s Island. Doesn’t anyone live there? I asked. No, no one, they said. I didn’t say any more, but I did some thinking. I’m pretty sure I saw some smoke at the head of the island about a day or two ago. I said to myself that it’s likely the n------ is hiding over there. Anyway, I said, it’s worth the trouble to look around the island a bit. I haven’t seen any smoke since then, so I guess maybe he’s gone, if it was even him in the first place. My husband and another man went over there to check. He had been up river, but he got back today. I told him all about it as soon as he got here two hours ago.”
I had got so uneasy I couldn’t set still. I had to do something with my hands; so I took up a needle off of the table and went to threading it. My hands shook, and I was making a bad job of it. When the woman stopped talking I looked up, and she was looking at me pretty curious and smiling a little. I put down the needle and thread, and let on to be interested—and I was, too—and says: I’d gotten so nervous I couldn’t sit still. I had to do something with my hands, so I took up a needle off the table and started threading it. My hands shook, and I was doing a pretty bad job with the needle. When the woman stopped talking, I looked up, and she was looking at me funny and smiling a little. I put down the needle and thread, and started to act more interested in what she was saying—which I was—and said:
“Three hundred dollars is a power of money. I wish my mother could get it. Is your husband going over there to-night?” “Three hundred dollars is an awful lot of money. I wish my mother could get it. Is your husband over there tonight?”
“Oh, yes. He went up-town with the man I was telling you of, to get a boat and see if they could borrow another gun. They’ll go over after midnight.” “Why, yes. He went to the north of town with the other man I was telling you about to see if they could get a boat and borrow another gun. They’ll go over after midnight.”
“Couldn’t they see better if they was to wait till daytime?” “Won’t they be able to see better if they wait until the daytime?”
“Yes. And couldn’t the nigger see better, too? After midnight he’ll likely be asleep, and they can slip around through the woods and hunt up his camp fire all the better for the dark, if he’s got one.” “Yes, but that n----- will be able to see better too? He’ll likely be asleep after midnight, and in the dark they’ll be able to sneak through the woods and spot his camp fire better, if he has one.”
“I didn’t think of that.” “I didn’t think of that.”
The woman kept looking at me pretty curious, and I didn’t feel a bit comfortable. Pretty soon she says, The woman kept looking at me funny, which made me feel really uneasy. Pretty soon she said:
“What did you say your name was, honey?” “What did you say your name was, honey?”
“M—Mary Williams.” “M—Mary Williams.”
Somehow it didn’t seem to me that I said it was Mary before, so I didn’t look up—seemed to me I said it was Sarah; so I felt sort of cornered, and was afeared maybe I was looking it, too. I wished the woman would say something more; the longer she set still the uneasier I was. But now she says: Somehow, Mary didn’t seem like the name I’d given before. It seemed to me I’d said it was Sarah. I sort of felt cornered and was afraid that I looked cornered too, so I didn’t look up. I wished the woman would say something—the longer she sat still the worse I felt. But then she said:
“Honey, I thought you said it was Sarah when you first come in?” “Honey, I thought you said your name was Sarah when you first came in.”
“Oh, yes’m, I did. Sarah Mary Williams. Sarah’s my first name. Some calls me Sarah, some calls me Mary.” “Oh yes, ma’am, I did. Sarah Mary Williams. Sarah’s my first name. Some people call me Sarah, others call me Mary.”
“Oh, that’s the way of it?” “Oh, that’s how it is?”
“Yes’m.” “Yes, ma’am.”
I was feeling better then, but I wished I was out of there, anyway. I couldn’t look up yet. I felt better then, but I still wished I wasn’t there anymore. I still couldn’t look up.
Well, the woman fell to talking about how hard times was, and how poor they had to live, and how the rats was as free as if they owned the place, and so forth and so on, and then I got easy again. She was right about the rats. You’d see one stick his nose out of a hole in the corner every little while. She said she had to have things handy to throw at them when she was alone, or they wouldn’t give her no peace. She showed me a bar of lead twisted up into a knot, and said she was a good shot with it generly, but she’d wrenched her arm a day or two ago, and didn’t know whether she could throw true now. But she watched for a chance, and directly banged away at a rat; but she missed him wide, and said “Ouch!” it hurt her arm so. Then she told me to try for the next one. I wanted to be getting away before the old man got back, but of course I didn’t let on. I got the thing, and the first rat that showed his nose I let drive, and if he’d a stayed where he was he’d a been a tolerable sick rat. She said that was first-rate, and she reckoned I would hive the next one. She went and got the lump of lead and fetched it back, and brought along a hank of yarn which she wanted me to help her with. I held up my two hands and she put the hank over them, and went on talking about her and her husband’s matters. But she broke off to say: Well, the woman started talking about what such hard times these were and how poor she and her husband were and how the rats ran around as if they owned the place. She went on an on and I started to relax again. She was right about the rats—every once in a while you could see one stick his nose out of a hole in the corner. She said she had to keep things on hand to throw at them when she was by herself or else they’d take over. She showed me a bar of lead that was twisted up into a knot. She said she was usually a pretty good shot with it, but that she’d twisted her arm a day or two ago. She didn’t know whether she could throw it at the rats anymore. She waited for an opportunity, then tried to hit a rat with it. She missed him, and said “Ouch!” from the pain in her arm. She told me to try and hit the next one. I wanted to leave before the old man got back, but I didn’t let on, of course. I picked up the lead bar and threw it at the first rat that showed its nose. If it had stayed put, it would have been badly hurt, but it got away. The woman said that that had been a fine throw and that she was sure I’d get the next one. She went and got the lead bar and brought it back along with a skein of yarn she wanted me to help her with. I held up my two hands and she started winding the yarn over them and went on talking about her husband’s business. She stopped at one point to say:

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