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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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But there warn’t no answer, and nobody come out of the wigwam. Jim was gone! I set up a shout—and then another—and then another one; and run this way and that in the woods, whooping and screeching; but it warn’t no use—old Jim was gone. Then I set down and cried; I couldn’t help it. But I couldn’t set still long. Pretty soon I went out on the road, trying to think what I better do, and I run across a boy walking, and asked him if he’d seen a strange nigger dressed so and so, and he says: But I didn’t get an answer, and no one came out of the wigwam. Jim was gone! I shouted for him—then shouted again—and then again. I ran this way and that through the woods, whooping and hollering for him, but it wasn’t any use—old Jim was gone. I sat down a cried. I just couldn’t help it. But I couldn’t sit still for long. Pretty soon I was back on the road, trying to figure out what I should do. That’s when I came across a boy walking by. I asked him if he’d seen a strange n----- fitting Jim’s description, and he said:
“Yes.” “Yes.”
“Whereabouts?” says I. “Where?” I asked.
“Down to Silas Phelps’ place, two mile below here. He’s a runaway nigger, and they’ve got him. Was you looking for him?” “Down by Silas Phelps’s place, about two miles down the river. He’s a runaway n-----, and they’ve captured him. Were you looking for him?”
“You bet I ain’t! I run across him in the woods about an hour or two ago, and he said if I hollered he’d cut my livers out—and told me to lay down and stay where I was; and I done it. Been there ever since; afeard to come out.” “Of course not! I ran across him in the woods about an hour or two ago, and he said that he’d cut my liver out if I said anything. He told me to lay down and stay where I was, so I did. I’ve been there ever since, because I was afraid to come out.”
“Well,” he says, “you needn’t be afeard no more, becuz they’ve got him. He run off f’m down South, som’ers.” “Well,” he said, “you don’t need to be afraid any more, because they’ve got him. He’d run away from some place south of here.”
“It’s a good job they got him.” “It’s a good thing they caught him.”
“Well, I RECKON! There’s two hunderd dollars reward on him. It’s like picking up money out’n the road.” “I WOULD SAY so! There’s a two hundred dollar reward out for him. It’s like picking up money off the street.”
“Yes, it is—and I could a had it if I’d been big enough; I see him FIRST. Who nailed him?” “Yes, it is—and since I saw him first, I could have had that money if I was big enough to capture him. Who caught him?”
“It was an old fellow—a stranger—and he sold out his chance in him for forty dollars, becuz he’s got to go up the river and can’t wait. Think o’ that, now! You bet I’D wait, if it was seven year.” “It was an old fellow—a stranger. He handed him over for just forty dollars because he had to go up river for some reason and couldn’t wait for the full reward. Just think of that! Had it been me, you BET I would have waited, even if it took seven years!”
“That’s me, every time,” says I. “But maybe his chance ain’t worth no more than that, if he’ll sell it so cheap. Maybe there’s something ain’t straight about it.” “Me too,” I said. “But maybe he didn’t even deserve the forty dollars, if he was willing to settle for so little money. There’s something that doesn’t seem right about it.”
“But it IS, though—straight as a string. I see the handbill myself. It tells all about him, to a dot—paints him like a picture, and tells the plantation he’s frum, below NewrLEANS. No-sirree-BOB, they ain’t no trouble ’bout THAT speculation, you bet you. Say, gimme a chaw tobacker, won’t ye?” “But it IS legitimate—everything’s as straight as a string. I saw the handbill myself. It described him perfectly. It had a little picture that looked exactly like him and described the plantation where he’s from—some place down the river from New Orleans. Yes, sir, there’s no funny business going on. Hey, you got any chewing tobacco to spare?”
I didn’t have none, so he left. I went to the raft, and set down in the wigwam to think. But I couldn’t come to nothing. I thought till I wore my head sore, but I couldn’t see no way out of the trouble. After all this long journey, and after all we’d done for them scoundrels, here it was all come to nothing, everything all busted up and ruined, because they could have the heart to serve Jim such a trick as that, and make him a slave again all his life, and amongst strangers, too, for forty dirty dollars. I didn’t have any, so he left. Then I went to the raft and sat down in the wigwam to think. But I couldn’t think of what I should do. I thought and thought until my head hurt, but I didn’t see any way out of this situation. After this whole journey—after all we’d done for those scoundrels—we were going to get nothing out of it. Everything was ruined, because those heartless guys sold Jim back into slavery—and to strangers too. And they did it all for a measly forty dollars.
Once I said to myself it would be a thousand times better for Jim to be a slave at home where his family was, as long as he’d GOT to be a slave, and so I’d better write a letter to Tom Sawyer and tell him to tell Miss Watson where he was. But I soon give up that notion for two things: she’d be mad and disgusted at his rascality and ungratefulness for leaving her, and so she’d sell him straight down the river again; and if she didn’t, everybody naturally despises an ungrateful nigger, and they’d make Jim feel it all the time, and so he’d feel ornery and disgraced. And then think of ME! It would get all around that Huck Finn helped a nigger to get his freedom; and if I was ever to see anybody from that town again I’d be ready to get down and lick his boots for shame. That’s just the way: a person does a low-down thing, and then he don’t want to take no consequences of it. Thinks as long as he can hide, it ain’t no disgrace. That was my fix exactly. The more I studied about this the more my conscience went to grinding me, and the more wicked and low-down and ornery I got to feeling. And at last, when it hit me all of a sudden that here was the plain hand of Providence slapping me in the face and letting me know my wickedness was being watched all the time from up there in heaven, whilst I was stealing a poor old woman’s nigger that hadn’t ever done me no harm, and now was showing me there’s One that’s always on the lookout, and ain’t a-going to allow no such miserable doings to go only just so fur and no further, I most dropped in my tracks I was so scared. Well, I tried the best I could to kinder soften it up somehow for myself by saying I was brung up wicked, and so I warn’t so much to blame; but something inside of me kept saying, “There was the Sunday-school, you could a gone to it; and if you’d a done it they’d a learnt you there that people that acts as I’d been acting about that nigger goes to everlasting fire.” I figured that if Jim HAD to be a slave, then it would have been a thousand times better if he were a slave back home with his family. I thought I should write to Tom Sawyer to have him tell Miss Watson where Jim was. But I gave up on that idea for two reasons. One, she’d be so mad and disgusted with him for being devious and ungrateful by leaving her that she might sell him down the river again. And even if she didn’t, every one despises an ungrateful n-----, and would give Jim a hard time. He’d constantly feel terrible and disgraced. Two, just think of what would happen to me! Word would get around that Huck Finn had helped a n----- runaway to freedom. And if I ever ran into anyone from that town again, I’d have to get down on my knees and lick his boots out of shame. That’s just how things work: A person never wants to face the consequences when he does something awful. I decided that as long as Jim could hide, there would be no such disgrace. And that was the fix I was in. The more I thought about it, the more my conscience bothered me, and the more wicked and awful I felt. And then it suddenly hit me: This new problem was just Providence’s way of slapping me in the face and letting me know that my wickedness was being watched all the time from up in heaven. I was stealing a n----- from a poor old woman who had never done anything bad to me, and now I was being shown that God was always on the lookout and would only allow such awful things to go on for so long. I was so scared that I almost fell to the ground. I tried the best I could to rationalize my actions by blaming my wicked upbringing. But something inside of me kept saying, “You could have gone to Sunday school, where you would have learned that people who’ve been acting the way you have to help that n----- will burn in everlasting hellfire.”

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