WELL, pretty soon the old man was up and around again, and then he went
for Judge Thatcher in the courts to make him give up that money, and he went
for me, too, for not stopping school. He catched me a couple of times and
thrashed me, but I went to school just the same, and dodged him or outrun
him most of the time. I didn’t want to go to school much before, but I
reckoned I’d go now to spite pap. That law trial was a slow
business—appeared like they warn’t ever going to get started on it; so every
now and then I’d borrow two or three dollars off of the judge for him, to
keep from getting a cowhiding. Every time he got money he got drunk; and
every time he got drunk he raised Cain around town; and every time he raised
Cain he got jailed. He was just suited—this kind of thing was right in his
Well, pretty soon my old man was up and about again. He sued Judge
Thatcher for that money. He also went after me for continuing to go to
school. He caught me a couple times and beat me fiercely, but I continued to
go to school just the same and usually just avoided pap or outran him. I
didn’t really want to go to school before, but I figured I’d go now just to
spite pap. The lawsuit was slow, and it looked like they were never going to
start the process, so every now and then I’d borrow two or three dollars
from Judge Thatcher to keep pap from beating me. Every time he got money,
he’d get drunk, and every time he got drunk, he tore up the town. And every
time he tore up the town, he got thrown in jail. This way of life suited him
perfectly—it was right in his line of work.
He got to hanging around the widow’s too much and so she told him at last
that if he didn’t quit using around there she would make trouble for him.
Well, WASN’T he mad? He said he would show who was Huck Finn’s boss. So he
watched out for me one day in the spring, and catched me, and took me up the
river about three mile in a skiff, and crossed over to the Illinois shore
where it was woody and there warn’t no houses but an old log hut in a place
where the timber was so thick you couldn’t find it if you didn’t know where
Pap started hanging around the widow’s house too much, so she finally told
him that if he didn’t stop, she’d make life hard for him. That REALLY got
him mad. He said he would show her who was in charge of Huck Finn. So he
watched out for me, and caught me one Spring day. He took me about three
miles upriver in a skiff, and we crossed over into the state of Illinois. He
took me to a secluded old log hut that was hidden away by trees so thick you
wouldn’t be able to find it unless you already knew it was there.
He kept me with him all the time, and I never got a chance to run off. We
lived in that old cabin, and he always locked the door and put the key under
his head nights. He had a gun which he had stole, I reckon, and we fished
and hunted, and that was what we lived on. Every little while he locked me
in and went down to the store, three miles, to the ferry, and traded fish
and game for whisky, and fetched it home and got drunk and had a good time,
and licked me. The widow she found out where I was by and by, and she sent a
man over to try to get hold of me; but pap drove him off with the gun, and
it warn’t long after that till I was used to being where I was, and liked
it—all but the cowhide part.
Pap kept me with him all the time, so I never got a chance to run away. We
lived in that old cabin, and he always locked the door and put the key under
his head at night. He had a gun—which he’d stolen, I guess—and lived on what
we fished and hunted. Every once in a while he’d lock me in the hut and take
the ferry down to the store three miles away, where he’d trade fish and game
for whisky. He’d bring it home and get drunk and have a goold old time. And
then he’d beat me. The widow eventually found out where I was, and she sent
a man over to try and bring me back. Pap drove him off with the gun, though.
It wasn’t long until I’d settled in and gotten used to life there. I even
liked it—except for the being beaten part.
It was kind of lazy and jolly, laying off comfortable all day, smoking and
fishing, and no books nor study. Two months or more run along, and my
clothes got to be all rags and dirt, and I didn’t see how I’d ever got to
like it so well at the widow’s, where you had to wash, and eat on a plate,
and comb up, and go to bed and get up regular, and be forever bothering over
a book, and have old Miss Watson pecking at you all the time. I didn’t want
to go back no more. I had stopped cussing, because the widow didn’t like it;
but now I took to it again because pap hadn’t no objections. It was pretty
good times up in the woods there, take it all around.
It was kind of fun and relaxing lounging around all day, smoking and
fishing and not having to read or study. Two months or so passed and my
clothes became all raggedy and dirty. I didn’t understand how I could have
ever liked it so much at the widow’s house, where you had to wash, eat on a
plate, comb your hair, go to bed and get up at regular hours, fuss over the
Bible, and put up with Miss Watson picking on you all the time. I had
stopped cussing because the widow didn’t like it, but I started back up
again because pap didn’t care. All in all, it was pretty easy living in the
woods, and I didn’t want to go back.
But by and by pap got too handy with his hick’ry, and I couldn’t stand it.
I was all over welts. He got to going away so much, too, and locking me in.
Once he locked me in and was gone three days. It was dreadful lonesome. I
judged he had got drowned, and I wasn’t ever going to get out any more. I
was scared. I made up my mind I would fix up some way to leave there. I had
tried to get out of that cabin many a time, but I couldn’t find no way.
There warn’t a window to it big enough for a dog to get through. I couldn’t
get up the chimbly; it was too narrow. The door was thick, solid oak slabs.
Pap was pretty careful not to leave a knife or anything in the cabin when he
was away; I reckon I had hunted the place over as much as a hundred times;
well, I was most all the time at it, because it was about the only way to
put in the time. But this time I found something at last; I found an old
rusty wood-saw without any handle; it was laid in between a rafter and the
clapboards of the roof. I greased it up and went to work. There was an old
horse-blanket nailed against the logs at the far end of the cabin behind the
table, to keep the wind from blowing through the chinks and putting the
candle out. I got under the table and raised the blanket, and went to work
to saw a section of the big bottom log out—big enough to let me through.
Well, it was a good long job, but I was getting towards the end of it when I
heard pap’s gun in the woods. I got rid of the signs of my work, and dropped
the blanket and hid my saw, and pretty soon pap come in.
But after awhile pap started beating me more and more and I couldn’t stand
it any more. I had bruises all over. He started going away and locking me
inside a lot too. Once he locked me in and was gone for three days, which
made me terribly lonely. I thought he’d drowned, and that I’d never get out
of the hut. I was scared, and made up my mind to find some way out. I had
tried to get out of the cabin several times before, but never found a way.
The window wasn’t big enough to fit a dog, and the chimney was too narrow
for me to climb through. And the door was made of thick, solid slabs of oak.
I looked around the place at least a hundred times—it was pretty much the
only thing for me to do—but Pap was careful not to leave a knife or anything
in the cabin when he was away. But this time I found something—an old, rusty
wood-saw that didn’t have a handle. It was lying between one of the rafters
and the clapboards of the roof. I put some grease on the blade and went to
work. There was an old saddle blanket nailed to the wall at the far end of
the cabin behind the table to keep the wind from coming in through the
chinks and blowing out the candle. I got under the table, lifted the
blanket, and started sawing a section at the base of the wall big enough for
me to crawl through. It took a long time, and when I was almost done, I
heard the sound of pap’s gun firing in the woods. I covered up my work,
lowered the blanket again, and hid my saw. Pretty soon pap came in.