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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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They had borrowed a melodeum—a sick one; and when everything was ready a young woman set down and worked it, and it was pretty skreeky and colicky, and everybody joined in and sung, and Peter was the only one that had a good thing, according to my notion. Then the Reverend Hobson opened up, slow and solemn, and begun to talk; and straight off the most outrageous row busted out in the cellar a body ever heard; it was only one dog, but he made a most powerful racket, and he kept it up right along; the parson he had to stand there, over the coffin, and wait—you couldn’t hear yourself think. It was right down awkward, and nobody didn’t seem to know what to do. But pretty soon they see that long-legged undertaker make a sign to the preacher as much as to say, “Don’t you worry—just depend on me.” Then he stooped down and begun to glide along the wall, just his shoulders showing over the people’s heads. So he glided along, and the powwow and racket getting more and more outrageous all the time; and at last, when he had gone around two sides of the room, he disappears down cellar. Then in about two seconds we heard a whack, and the dog he finished up with a most amazing howl or two, and then everything was dead still, and the parson begun his solemn talk where he left off. In a minute or two here comes this undertaker’s back and shoulders gliding along the wall again; and so he glided and glided around three sides of the room, and then rose up, and shaded his mouth with his hands, and stretched his neck out towards the preacher, over the people’s heads, and says, in a kind of a coarse whisper, “HE HAD A RAT!” Then he drooped down and glided along the wall again to his place. You could see it was a great satisfaction to the people, because naturally they wanted to know. A little thing like that don’t cost nothing, and it’s just the little things that makes a man to be looked up to and liked. There warn’t no more popular man in town than what that undertaker was. Someone had borrowed a

melodeun

musical instrument similar to an accordian

melodeun
—a pretty awful one. When everything was ready, a young woman sat down and started playing it. It shrieked a lot and sounded like a crying baby, but everyone joined in and sang. Peter was the lucky one, if you ask me. Then the Reverend Hobson began to talk slowly and solemnly. Just then, the loudest noise anyone had ever heard came up from out of the cellar. It was only a dog, but he barked so loudly you couldn’t hear yourself think. The parson had to just stand over the body and wait. The whole situation was pretty awkward, and no one seemed to know what to do. Pretty soon, though, the long-legged undertaker signaled to the preacher as if to say, “Don’t worry about—I’ll take care of it.” Then he bent down and began to glide along the wall, so that only his shoulders showed above people’s heads. He glided along as the barking got louder and louder until he’d made his way along two walls and disappeared down into the cellar. In a couple seconds we heard a loud whack followed by a final howl or two from the dog before everything was dead still. Then the parson picked up his sermon again right where he’d left off. The undertaker’s shoulders appeared gliding along the wall in another minute or two, and he continued gliding around three sides of the room. Then he rose up, covered his mouth with his hand, craned his neck toward the preacher over people’s heads and said in kind of a coarse whisper, “He had a rat!” Then he dropped back down and glided along the wall again to his place. You could see everyone was satisfied with that, since they’d all wanted to know why the dog had been barking so loudly. A little touch like that doesn’t take much effort, but it’s those little touches that earn people’s admiration and respect. That was why there wasn’t a more popular man in town than the undertaker.
Well, the funeral sermon was very good, but pison long and tiresome; and then the king he shoved in and got off some of his usual rubbage, and at last the job was through, and the undertaker begun to sneak up on the coffin with his screw-driver. I was in a sweat then, and watched him pretty keen. But he never meddled at all; just slid the lid along as soft as mush, and screwed it down tight and fast. So there I was! I didn’t know whether the money was in there or not. So, says I, s’pose somebody has hogged that bag on the sly?—now how do I know whether to write to Mary Jane or not? S’pose she dug him up and didn’t find nothing, what would she think of me? Blame it, I says, I might get hunted up and jailed; I’d better lay low and keep dark, and not write at all; the thing’s awful mixed now; trying to better it, I’ve worsened it a hundred times, and I wish to goodness I’d just let it alone, dad fetch the whole business! Well, the final sermon was very good, but it was really long and tiresome. When it was over, the king barged in and spouted some of his usual garbage. Then that was it. The undertaker began to sneak up on the coffin with his screwdriver. I was getting pretty nervous, and I watched him closely to see what would happen. He didn’t mess around with anything at all, though. He just slid the lid on quickly and easily and screwed it down tightly. And that was that! I didn’t know whether the money was in there or not. Suppose, I said to myself, someone has taken the bag without anyone else knowing it? How could I know whether I should write to Mary Jane or not? Suppose she dug him up and didn’t find anything. What would she think of me then? Shoot, they might come after me and throw me in jail. I’d better just keep quiet and not write anything at all, I said to myself. Everything’s all messed up now. I tried to make it better and just messed it up even more. I wished to goodness that I’d just let things be. Darn it all!
They buried him, and we come back home, and I went to watching faces again—I couldn’t help it, and I couldn’t rest easy. But nothing come of it; the faces didn’t tell me nothing. They buried him, and we went back home. I started watching everyone’s face again, because I just couldn’t help it, and I couldn’t relax. Nothing more came of it, though—the faces didn’t tell me anything.
The king he visited around in the evening, and sweetened everybody up, and made himself ever so friendly; and he give out the idea that his congregation over in England would be in a sweat about him, so he must hurry and settle up the estate right away and leave for home. He was very sorry he was so pushed, and so was everybody; they wished he could stay longer, but they said they could see it couldn’t be done. And he said of course him and William would take the girls home with them; and that pleased everybody too, because then the girls would be well fixed and amongst their own relations; and it pleased the girls, too—tickled them so they clean forgot they ever had a trouble in the world; and told him to sell out as quick as he wanted to, they would be ready. Them poor things was that glad and happy it made my heart ache to see them getting fooled and lied to so, but I didn’t see no safe way for me to chip in and change the general tune. The king visited with everyone that evening and lightened the mood with his friendliness. He said he had to settle up the rest of the estate immediately and head back to England because his subjects back home would be worried about him. He and everyone else were very sorry that he was so pressed for time. Everyone wanted him to stay longer, but they understood that it wasn’t possible. Of course, he said that he and William would take the girls home with them. That made everyone happy too, because then the girls would be well taken care of and among family. It pleased the girls too—pleased them so much, in fact, that they forgot everything bad that had happened. They told him that he could settle his business as quickly as he wanted to, because they were ready to go. The poor things were so happy to go back that it made my heart ache to see them getting fooled and lied to. I didn’t see a safe way for me to tell them the truth, though.

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