A man calls off the dogs, saving Huck, who introduces himself as “George Jackson.” The man invites “George” into his house, where the hosts express an odd suspicion that Huck is a member of a family called the Shepherdsons. Eventually, Huck’s hosts decide that he is not a Shepherdson. The lady of the house tells Buck, a boy about Huck’s age, to get Huck some dry clothes. Buck says he would have killed a Shepherdson had there been any Shepherdsons present. Buck tells Huck a riddle, but Huck does not understand the concept of riddles. Buck says Huck must stay with him and they will have great fun. Huck, meanwhile, invents an elaborate story to explain how he was orphaned.
Buck’s family, the Grangerfords, offer to let Huck stay with them for as long as he likes. Huck innocently admires the house and its humorously tacky finery, including the work of a deceased daughter, Emmeline, who created unintentionally funny sentimental artwork and poems about people who died. Settling in with the Grangerfords and enjoying their kindness, Huck thinks that “nothing couldn’t be better” than life at the comfortable house.Read a translation of Chapter 17 →
Other places do seem so cramped up and smothery, but a raft don’t. You feel mighty free and easy and comfortable on a raft.See Important Quotations Explained
Huck admires Colonel Grangerford, the master of the house, and his supposed gentility. A warmhearted man, the colonel owns a very large estate with over a hundred slaves. Everyone in the household treats the colonel with great courtesy. The Grangerford children include Bob, the oldest; then Tom; then Charlotte, age twenty-five; Sophia, age twenty; and finally Buck. All of them are beautiful.
One day, Buck tries to shoot a young man named Harney Shepherdson but misses. Huck asks why Buck wanted to kill Harney, and Buck explains that the Grangerfords are in a feud with a neighboring clan of families, the Shepherdsons. No one can remember how or why the feud started, but in the last year, two people have been killed, including a fourteen-year-old Grangerford. The two families attend church together and hold their rifles between their knees as the minister preaches about brotherly love.
After church one day, Sophia Grangerford has Huck retrieve a copy of the Bible from the pews. She is delighted to find inside a note with the words “Half-past two” written on it. Later, Huck’s slave valet leads Huck deep into the swamp and tells Huck he wants to show him some water-moccasins. Huck finds Jim there, much to his surprise. Jim says that he followed Huck to the shore the night they were wrecked but did not dare call out for fear of being caught. Some slaves found the raft, but Jim reclaimed it by threatening the slaves and telling them that it belonged to his white master.
The next day, Huck learns that Sophia Grangerford has run off with Harney Shepherdson. In the woods, Huck finds Buck and a nineteen-year-old Grangerford in a gunfight with the Shepherdsons. Both of the Grangerfords are killed. Deeply disturbed, Huck heads for Jim and the raft, and the two shove off downstream.