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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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When we got there there warn’t nobody stirring; streets empty, and perfectly dead and still, like Sunday. We found a sick nigger sunning himself in a back yard, and he said everybody that warn’t too young or too sick or too old was gone to camp-meeting, about two mile back in the woods. The king got the directions, and allowed he’d go and work that camp-meeting for all it was worth, and I might go, too. There wasn’t anyone around when we got to the town. The streets were empty—perfectly dead and still, like it would be on a Sunday. We found a sick n----- sunning himself in the backyard. He said that everyone who wasn’t too young or sick or old had gone to a camp meeting about two miles into the woods. The king got directions from him and said he’d go scam those people for all they were worth. He said I could go come along.
The duke said what he was after was a printing-office. We found it; a little bit of a concern, up over a carpenter shop—carpenters and printers all gone to the meeting, and no doors locked. It was a dirty, littered-up place, and had ink marks, and handbills with pictures of horses and runaway niggers on them, all over the walls. The duke shed his coat and said he was all right now. So me and the king lit out for the camp-meeting. The duke said he needed to find a printing office. We found a small one housed above a carpenter’s shop. Both the carpenter and the printer had gone to the meeting and left the doors unlocked. It was a dirty place with lots of junk lying around. There were ink marks and handbills showing pictures of horses and runaway n------ posted all over the walls. The duke removed his coat and said that he’d be okay, so the king and I headed for the camp meeting.
We got there in about a half an hour fairly dripping, for it was a most awful hot day. There was as much as a thousand people there from twenty mile around. The woods was full of teams and wagons, hitched everywheres, feeding out of the wagon-troughs and stomping to keep off the flies. There was sheds made out of poles and roofed over with branches, where they had lemonade and gingerbread to sell, and piles of watermelons and green corn and such-like truck. It was a really hot day, and we were dripping with sweat after the thirty minutes or so walk it took to get there. There were about a thousand people there who’d come from miles around. The woods were full of horses and wagons hitched up everywhere. The horses were eating out of the wagon troughs and stomping around to keep the flies away. Lemonade and gingerbread were being sold out of sheds made from poles with roofs of branches. Piles of watermelon and green corn and the like literred the ground.
The preaching was going on under the same kinds of sheds, only they was bigger and held crowds of people. The benches was made out of outside slabs of logs, with holes bored in the round side to drive sticks into for legs. They didn’t have no backs. The preachers had high platforms to stand on at one end of the sheds. The women had on sun-bonnets; and some had linsey-woolsey frocks, some gingham ones, and a few of the young ones had on calico. Some of the young men was barefooted, and some of the children didn’t have on any clothes but just a tow-linen shirt. Some of the old women was knitting, and some of the young folks was courting on the sly. There were also much larger sheds where crowds of people gathered to hear the preaching. There were benches made from the outside of sawed logs—they had holes bored into the round side of the log to drive sticks in for the legs. The benches didn’t have any backs. The preachers stood on high platforms at one end of the sheds. The women wore sunbonnets, and some wore

linsey-woolsey

cloth made of both linen and wool

linsey-woolsey
frock, while others had on

gingham

colored, often patterned fabric

gingham
frocks. A few of the young ones had calico frocks. Some of the young men were barefooted, and some of the children were naked except a

tow-linen

cheaply woven fabric made out of scraps of yarn

tow-linen
shirt. Some of the old women were knitting, and some of the young folk were secretly flirting with each other.
The first shed we come to the preacher was lining out a hymn. He lined out two lines, everybody sung it, and it was kind of grand to hear it, there was so many of them and they done it in such a rousing way; then he lined out two more for them to sing—and so on. The people woke up more and more, and sung louder and louder; and towards the end some begun to groan, and some begun to shout. Then the preacher begun to preach, and begun in earnest, too; and went weaving first to one side of the platform and then the other, and then a-leaning down over the front of it, with his arms and his body going all the time, and shouting his words out with all his might; and every now and then he would hold up his Bible and spread it open, and kind of pass it around this way and that, shouting, “It’s the brazen serpent in the wilderness! Look upon it and live!” And people would shout out, “Glory!—A-a-MEN!” And so he went on, and the people groaning and crying and saying amen: In the first shed we came to, the preacher was going over a hymn. He said the first two lines, and everyone sang it back. It sounded kind of grand, because there were so many people, and they sang in such a stirring way. He said two more lines, and they would sing, and so on. The people got more and more into it, singing louder and louder. Toward the end of the hymn, some people began to groan, and some even began to shout. Then the preacher began to preach with a lot of passion. He’d weave to one side of the platform, and then he’d weave to the other. Then he’d lean down over the front with his arms waving and his body moving all the time, while he shouted his words with all his might. Every now and then he’d hold up his Bible and spread it open and pass it around, shouting, “It’s that devilish serpent in the wilderness! Look at it and live!” People would shout out, “Glory! A-MEN!” While the people groaned and cryed and said amen, he continued preaching:
“Oh, come to the mourners’ bench! come, black with sin! (AMEN!) come, sick and sore! (AMEN!) come, lame and halt and blind! (AMEN!) come, pore and needy, sunk in shame! (A-A-MEN!) come, all that’s worn and soiled and suffering!—come with a broken spirit! come with a contrite heart! Come in your rags and sin and dirt! the waters that cleanse is free, the door of heaven stands open—oh, enter in and be at rest!” (A-A-MEN! GLORY, GLORY HALLELUJAH!) “Oh! Come up here to the mourner’s bench! Come all of you, who are black with sin! (AMEN!) Come, all you who are sick and sore! (AMEN!) Come, all you who are lame and crippled and blind! (AMEN!) Come, all of you who are worn out and tired and suffering—come with your broken spirit! Come with your guilty heart! Come in your rags and sin and dirt! The waters that will clean you are free to you! The door of heaven stands open to you! Come in and be at peace! (A-A-MEN! GLORY, GLORY HALLELUJAH!)”
And so on. You couldn’t make out what the preacher said any more, on account of the shouting and crying. Folks got up everywheres in the crowd, and worked their way just by main strength to the mourners’ bench, with the tears running down their faces; and when all the mourners had got up there to the front benches in a crowd, they sung and shouted and flung themselves down on the straw, just crazy and wild. And so on and so on. You couldn’t make out what the preacher was saying after that because of all the shouting and crying. Folks throughout the crowd stood up and fought their way to the mourner’s bench with all their might. Tears were running down their faces. When all the mourners had gotten up to the benches in front, they sang and shouted and flung themselves down on the straw floor, as if they were crazy or wild.
Well, the first I knowed the king got a-going, and you could hear him over everybody; and next he went a-charging up on to the platform, and the preacher he begged him to speak to the people, and he done it. He told them he was a pirate—been a pirate for thirty years out in the Indian Ocean—and his crew was thinned out considerable last spring in a fight, and he was home now to take out some fresh men, and thanks to goodness he’d been robbed last night and put ashore off of a steamboat without a cent, and he was glad of it; it was the blessedest thing that ever happened to him, because he was a changed man now, and happy for the first time in his life; and, poor as he was, he was going to start right off and work his way back to the Indian Ocean, and put in the rest of his life trying to turn the pirates into the true path; for he could do it better than anybody else, being acquainted with all pirate crews in that ocean; and though it would take him a long time to get there without money, he would get there anyway, and every time he convinced a pirate he would say to him, “Don’t you thank me, don’t you give me no credit; it all belongs to them dear people in Pokeville camp-meeting, natural brothers and benefactors of the race, and that dear preacher there, the truest friend a pirate ever had!” Well, before I knew it, the king had jumped in the mix. You could hear his voice over all the others. In no time he was charging up to the platform. The preacher begged him to speak to the people, and he did. He told them he was a pirate—had been a pirate out in the Indian Ocean for thirty years—and that he’d lost most of his crew last spring in a battle. Now he was home to take on some fresh men, but he had been robbed last night and kicked off a steamboat. He was penniless, but he was glad it had happened. It was the most blessed thing that had ever happened to him. Now he was a changed man and happy for the first time in his life. Even though he was poor, he was going to start right away working his way back to the Indian Ocean. He would devote the rest of his life to putting other pirates onto the true path. He said he was more qualified than anyone else to do this because he knew all the pirate crews in that ocean. And he said that even though he was broke and it would take him a long time to get there, he’d still find a way. Every time he converted a pirate, he’d say to him, “Don’t thank me—I don’t deserve the credit. It belongs to those dear people at the Pokeville camp meeting—the kindest white folks in the world live out there—and that dear preacher, who was the truest friend a pirate ever had!”

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