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The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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“Jim ain’t got no tin plates. They feed him in a pan.” “Jim doesn’t have any tin plates. They feed him from a pan.”
“That ain’t nothing; we can get him some.” “That’s not a problem. We can get him some tin plates.”
“Can’t nobody READ his plates.” “But no one would be able to read his writing on the plates.”
“That ain’t got anything to DO with it, Huck Finn. All HE’S got to do is to write on the plate and throw it out. You don’t HAVE to be able to read it. Why, half the time you can’t read anything a prisoner writes on a tin plate, or anywhere else.” “That doesn’t have anything to DO with it, Huck Finn. All HE’S got to do is write on the plate and throw it out. You don’t HAVE to be able to read it. Why, half the time you can’t read anything a prisoner writes on a tin plate or anywyere else anyway.”
“Well, then, what’s the sense in wasting the plates?” “Well, then, what’s the point of ruining the plates?”
“Why, blame it all, it ain’t the PRISONER’S plates.” “Why, darn it, they aren’t the PRISONER’S plates.”
“But it’s SOMEBODY’S plates, ain’t it?” “But they’re SOMEBODY’S plates, aren’t they?”
“Well, spos’n it is? What does the PRISONER care whose—” “Well, suppose they are? What does the prisoner care whose….”
He broke off there, because we heard the breakfast-horn blowing. So we cleared out for the house. He stopped talking because we heard the breakfast horn blowing. So we headed back to the house.
Along during the morning I borrowed a sheet and a white shirt off of the clothes-line; and I found an old sack and put them in it, and we went down and got the fox-fire, and put that in too. I called it borrowing, because that was what pap always called it; but Tom said it warn’t borrowing, it was stealing. He said we was representing prisoners; and prisoners don’t care how they get a thing so they get it, and nobody don’t blame them for it, either. It ain’t no crime in a prisoner to steal the thing he needs to get away with, Tom said; it’s his right; and so, as long as we was representing a prisoner, we had a perfect right to steal anything on this place we had the least use for to get ourselves out of prison with. He said if we warn’t prisoners it would be a very different thing, and nobody but a mean, ornery person would steal when he warn’t a prisoner. So we allowed we would steal everything there was that come handy. And yet he made a mighty fuss, one day, after that, when I stole a watermelon out of the nigger-patch and eat it; and he made me go and give the niggers a dime without telling them what it was for. Tom said that what he meant was, we could steal anything we NEEDED. Well, I says, I needed the watermelon. But he said I didn’t need it to get out of prison with; there’s where the difference was. He said if I’d a wanted it to hide a knife in, and smuggle it to Jim to kill the seneskal with, it would a been all right. So I let it go at that, though I couldn’t see no advantage in my representing a prisoner if I got to set down and chaw over a lot of gold-leaf distinctions like that every time I see a chance to hog a watermelon. Later in the morning, I borrowed a sheet and a white shirt off the clothesline. I found an old sack and put them in it. Then I went down and got the foxfire and put that in there too. I call it “borrowing” because what’s what pap always called it. Tom, though, said it was stealing, not borrowing. He said we were representing prisoners, and prisoners don’t care how they get something so long as they get it. And no one blames them for stealing either. It’s not a crime for a prisoner to steal the things he needs to escape, Tom said—it’s his right. And so long as we were representing a prisoner, we had a perfect right to steal anything around here that might be of the slightest use for getting someone out of prison. He said it’d be a very different matter if we weren’t prisoners, and that no one but a mean, low-down person would steal if he weren’t a prisoner. So we figured we would steal everything that we thought would come in handy. Still, he made a pretty big fuss one day after that when I stole a watermelon out of a n----- garden and ate it. He made me go and give the n------ a dime without telling them what it was for. Tom said that he had meant we could steal anything that we NEEDED. Well, I said, I needed the watermelon. But he said I didn’t need it to get out of prison with—that was the difference. He said if I’d wanted to hide a knife in it and smuggle it to Jim to kill the seneskal with, that would have been all right. So I dropped the matter, though I couldn’t really see the use in representing a prisoner if I had to sit down and think about all the fine print like that every time I had the opportunity to steal a watermelon.
Well, as I was saying, we waited that morning till everybody was settled down to business, and nobody in sight around the yard; then Tom he carried the sack into the lean-to whilst I stood off a piece to keep watch. By and by he come out, and we went and set down on the woodpile to talk. He says: Well, as I was saying, we waited that morning until everyone had started work and no one was in sight in the yard. Then Tom carried the sack into the lean-to while I stood off a little ways to keep watch. Pretty soon, Tom came out of the lean-to, and we went and sat down by the woodpile to talk. He said:
“Everything’s all right now except tools; and that’s easy fixed.” “Everything’s set now except for the tools. And that’s easy to fix.”
“Tools?” I says. “Tools?” I asked.
“Yes.” “Yes.”
“Tools for what?” “Tools for what?”
“Why, to dig with. We ain’t a-going to GNAW him out, are we?” “Why, tools to dig with. We aren’t going to GNAW him out, are we?”
“Ain’t them old crippled picks and things in there good enough to dig a nigger out with?” I says. “Aren’t those old crippled picks and things in there good enough to dig a n----- out with?” I said.
He turns on me, looking pitying enough to make a body cry, and says: He turned to me, looking at me as if I were so pathetic he was going to him cry. He said:
“Huck Finn, did you EVER hear of a prisoner having picks and shovels, and all the modern conveniences in his wardrobe to dig himself out with? Now I want to ask you—if you got any reasonableness in you at all—what kind of a show would THAT give him to be a hero? Why, they might as well lend him the key and done with it. Picks and shovels—why, they wouldn’t furnish ’em to a king.” “Huck Finn, did you EVER hear of a prisoner having picks and shovels and all the modern conveniences in his wardrobe to dig himself out with? Now I want to ask you—if you have any sense in you at all—what kind of a drama would THAT bring to make Jim a hero? Why, they might as well just give him the key to unlock himself and be done with it. Picks and shovels—why, they wouldn’t give those tools to a king.”
“Well, then,” I says, “if we don’t want the picks and shovels, what do we want?” “Well, them,” I said. “If we don’t want the picks and shovels, what do we want?”
“A couple of case-knives.” “A couple of pocket knives.”
“To dig the foundations out from under that cabin with?” “To dig the foundation out from under that cabin?”
“Yes.” “Yes.”
“Confound it, it’s foolish, Tom.” “Darn it, Tom, that’s just silly.”
“It don’t make no difference how foolish it is, it’s the RIGHT way—and it’s the regular way. And there ain’t no OTHER way, that ever I heard of, and I’ve read all the books that gives any information about these things. They always dig out with a case-knife—and not through dirt, mind you; generly it’s through solid rock. And it takes them weeks and weeks and weeks, and for ever and ever. Why, look at one of them prisoners in the bottom dungeon of the Castle Deef, in the harbor of Marseilles, that dug himself out that way; how long was HE at it, you reckon?” “It doesn’t make a difference how silly it is, it’s the RIGHT way to do it. It’s the normal way. There isn’t any OTHER way that I’ve ever heard of, and I’ve read all the books that say anything about this kind of stuff. They always dig out with a pocket knife—and not through dirt, mind you. Generally speaking, they dig through solid rock. And it takes them weeks and weeks and weeks and forever and ever. For example, take that prisoner in the dungeon of the

Chateau Deef

French prison featured in Alexandre Dumas’s novel The Count of Monte Cristo

Chateau Deef
in the harbor of Marseilles, who dug himself out that way. How long do you think it took HIM?

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