Skip over navigation

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Original Text

Modern Text

IT must a been close on to one o’clock when we got below the island at last, and the raft did seem to go mighty slow. If a boat was to come along we was going to take to the canoe and break for the Illinois shore; and it was well a boat didn’t come, for we hadn’t ever thought to put the gun in the canoe, or a fishing-line, or anything to eat. We was in ruther too much of a sweat to think of so many things. It warn’t good judgment to put EVERYTHING on the raft. The raft seemed to go incredibly slow. It must have been nearly one o’clock in the morning by the time we finally passed the island. We decided that if a boat came along, we were going to jump into the canoe and make a break for the Illinois shore. It was a good thing no boat ever came, though, because we hadn’t thought to put the gun or a fishing line or anything to eat in the canoe. We were panicking too much to think of all those things. It sure wasn’t good judgment to put EVERYTHING on the raft.
If the men went to the island I just expect they found the camp fire I built, and watched it all night for Jim to come. Anyways, they stayed away from us, and if my building the fire never fooled them it warn’t no fault of mine. I played it as low down on them as I could. If those men did go to the island, my guess is they found the campfire I built. They probably watched it all night waiting for Jim to come back. Well, whatever the reason, they stayed away from us. If my fake campfire didn’t fool them, then you can’t say I didn’t try. I did my best to fool them.
When the first streak of day began to show we tied up to a towhead in a big bend on the Illinois side, and hacked off cottonwood branches with the hatchet, and covered up the raft with them so she looked like there had been a cave-in in the bank there. A tow-head is a sandbar that has cottonwoods on it as thick as harrow-teeth. When the first ray of sunlight stretched over the horizon, we tied the canoe up to a towhead—a sandbar covered in thick groves of cottonwood trees—in a big bend on the Illinois side of the river. We hacked off some cottonwood branches with the hatchet, and used them to covered up the raft so it looked like there had been a cave-in on the riverbank.
We had mountains on the Missouri shore and heavy timber on the Illinois side, and the channel was down the Missouri shore at that place, so we warn’t afraid of anybody running across us. We laid there all day, and watched the rafts and steamboats spin down the Missouri shore, and up-bound steamboats fight the big river in the middle. I told Jim all about the time I had jabbering with that woman; and Jim said she was a smart one, and if she was to start after us herself she wouldn’t set down and watch a camp fire—no, sir, she’d fetch a dog. Well, then, I said, why couldn’t she tell her husband to fetch a dog? Jim said he bet she did think of it by the time the men was ready to start, and he believed they must a gone up-town to get a dog and so they lost all that time, or else we wouldn’t be here on a towhead sixteen or seventeen mile below the village—no, indeedy, we would be in that same old town again. So I said I didn’t care what was the reason they didn’t get us as long as they didn’t. There were mountains on the shore on the Missouri side of the river and thick forest on the Illinois side. The channel ran down the Missouri shore around there, so we weren’t afraid of anyone running into us. We lay there all day and watched the rafts and steamboats float down along the Missouri shoreline. And we watched other steamboats chug against the current in the middle of the river. I told Jim everything the woman in the cabin had told me. Jim said she must have been pretty smart. He said that if she had decided to come after us herself, she would have used a dog instead of wasting time watching campfires. I asked why she didn’t suggest that to her husband. He said she probably did. He’d probably had to go back upriver into town to get a dog. That’s why we were able to escape to this towhead sixteen or seventeen miles downstream. Otherwise we’d have been caught. So I said it didn’t matter how we’d gotten away, so long as we had.
When it was beginning to come on dark we poked our heads out of the cottonwood thicket, and looked up and down and across; nothing in sight; so Jim took up some of the top planks of the raft and built a snug wigwam to get under in blazing weather and rainy, and to keep the things dry. Jim made a floor for the wigwam, and raised it a foot or more above the level of the raft, so now the blankets and all the traps was out of reach of steamboat waves. Right in the middle of the wigwam we made a layer of dirt about five or six inches deep with a frame around it for to hold it to its place; this was to build a fire on in sloppy weather or chilly; the wigwam would keep it from being seen. We made an extra steering-oar, too, because one of the others might get broke on a snag or something. We fixed up a short forked stick to hang the old lantern on, because we must always light the lantern whenever we see a steamboat coming down-stream, to keep from getting run over; but we wouldn’t have to light it for up-stream boats unless we see we was in what they call a “crossing"; for the river was pretty high yet, very low banks being still a little under water; so up-bound boats didn’t always run the channel, but hunted easy water. When it started to get dark, we poked our heads out of the thicket of cottonwood trees. We looked all around, but couldn’t see anything. Jim took some of the planks from the raft to build a snug little wigwam to get out of the rain and keep our things dry. Jim made a floor for the wigwam and raised it at least a foot above the deck of the raft. This kept the blankets and traps from getting soaked by the waves made by the passing steamboats. We put a layer of dirt about five or six inches deep inside a little wooden frame in the middle of the wigwam. We could build a fire there that wouldn’t be seen or get drenched by the rain. We made an extra steering oar, too, in case one of the others broke or got caught in a snag in the water or something. We hung the lantern on a short forked stick so that the steamboats coming downstream wouldn’t hit us. We’d only have to light it, though, if we were in what they call a “crossing.” You see, the river was high enough that boat traveling up river didn’t have to run the channel, but could look for easier waters.
This second night we run between seven and eight hours, with a current that was making over four mile an hour. We catched fish and talked, and we took a swim now and then to keep off sleepiness. It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, laying on our backs looking up at the stars, and we didn’t ever feel like talking loud, and it warn’t often that we laughed—only a little kind of a low chuckle. We had mighty good weather as a general thing, and nothing ever happened to us at all—that night, nor the next, nor the next. We floated for about seven or eight hours in the current on this second night. We were moving about four miles an hour or so. We caught fish and talked and swum now and then to stay awake. It was kind of solemn, drifting down the big, still river, lying on our backs and looking up at the stars. We didn’t ever feel like talking too loudly, and we rarely laughed—we just chuckled a little. The weather was excellent, for the most part, and nothing much happened to us that night, the next night, or the one after that.

More Help

Previous Next