The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Mark Twain
No Fear Chapter 36
No Fear Chapter 36 Page 1

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AS soon as we reckoned everybody was asleep that night we went down the lightning-rod, and shut ourselves up in the lean-to, and got out our pile of fox-fire, and went to work. We cleared everything out of the way, about four or five foot along the middle of the bottom log. Tom said we was right behind Jim’s bed now, and we’d dig in under it, and when we got through there couldn’t nobody in the cabin ever know there was any hole there, because Jim’s counter-pin hung down most to the ground, and you’d have to raise it up and look under to see the hole. So we dug and dug with the case-knives till most midnight; and then we was dog-tired, and our hands was blistered, and yet you couldn’t see we’d done anything hardly. At last I says: As soon as we figured that everyone was asleep that night, we climbed down the lightning rod and closed ourselves up in the lean-to. We got out our pile of foxfire and went to work. We cleared everything out of the way about four or five feet along the middle of the bottom log of the wall. Tom said we were right behind Jim’s bed, and we’d dig under it. He said that no one in the cabin would ever know there was a hole in it when we were done because Jim’s sheets hung down almost to the ground—you’d have to lift it up and look under in order to see the hole. So we dug with the pocketknives until it was almost midnight. We were dog-tired by then, and our hands were blistered, but you couldn’t tell that we’d been working so hard. Finally I said:
“This ain’t no thirty-seven year job; this is a thirty-eight year job, Tom Sawyer.” “This isn’t a thirty-seven year job—it’s a thirty-eight year job, Tom Sawyer.”
He never said nothing. But he sighed, and pretty soon he stopped digging, and then for a good little while I knowed that he was thinking. Then he says: He didn’t say anything, but he signed. Pretty soon he stopped digging, and I knew what he was thinking for a while. Then he said:
“It ain’t no use, Huck, it ain’t a-going to work. If we was prisoners it would, because then we’d have as many years as we wanted, and no hurry; and we wouldn’t get but a few minutes to dig, every day, while they was changing watches, and so our hands wouldn’t get blistered, and we could keep it up right along, year in and year out, and do it right, and the way it ought to be done. But WE can’t fool along; we got to rush; we ain’t got no time to spare. If we was to put in another night this way we’d have to knock off for a week to let our hands get well—couldn’t touch a case-knife with them sooner.” “It isn’t any use, Huck. This isn’t going to work. It would if we were prisoners, because then we’d have as many years as we wanted and there wouldn’t be a rush. And it’d be fine that we’d only get a few minutes a day to dig, while they were changing the watch, which means our hands wouldn’t get blistered. We could just keep doing that year in and year out. We could do it properly, the way it ought to be done. But we CAN’T do that here—we’ve got to hurry up. We don’t have any spare time. If we have to spend another night digging, we’d have to wait a whole week just to let our hands heal. We wouldn’t even be able to TOUCH a knife before that.”
“Well, then, what we going to do, Tom?” “Well then, what are we going to do, Tom?”
“I’ll tell you. It ain’t right, and it ain’t moral, and I wouldn’t like it to get out; but there ain’t only just the one way: we got to dig him out with the picks, and LET ON it’s case-knives.” “I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. It isn’t right or moral, and I don’t want anyone to know aobut it, but there’s only one other option—we’ve got to dig him out with the picks and just TELL EVERYONE that we used pocket knives.”
“NOW you’re TALKING!” I says; “your head gets leveler and leveler all the time, Tom Sawyer,” I says. “Picks is the thing, moral or no moral; and as for me, I don’t care shucks for the morality of it, nohow. When I start in to steal a nigger, or a watermelon, or a Sunday-school book, I ain’t no ways particular how it’s done so it’s done. What I want is my nigger; or what I want is my watermelon; or what I want is my Sunday-school book; and if a pick’s the handiest thing, that’s the thing I’m a-going to dig that nigger or that watermelon or that Sunday-school book out with; and I don’t give a dead rat what the authorities thinks about it nuther.” “NOW you’re TALKING!” I said. “Your mind gets more and more practical all the time, Tom Sawyer,” I said. “Using picks is the way to do it, moral or immoral. As for me, I don’t give a darn for the morality of it anyway. When I start to steal a n----- or a watermelon or a Sunday school book, I’m not very particular in how it’s done so long as it IS done. All I want is my n----- or my watermelon or my Sunday school book. And if a pick’s the handiest thing, that’s the thing I’m going to use to dig that n----- out or get that watermelon or steal that Sunday school book. And I don’t give a rat’s ass what the authorities think about it!”
“Well,” he says, “there’s excuse for picks and letting-on in a case like this; if it warn’t so, I wouldn’t approve of it, nor I wouldn’t stand by and see the rules broke—because right is right, and wrong is wrong, and a body ain’t got no business doing wrong when he ain’t ignorant and knows better. It might answer for YOU to dig Jim out with a pick, WITHOUT any letting on, because you don’t know no better; but it wouldn’t for me, because I do know better. Gimme a case-knife.” “Well,” he said. “We’ll have a good excuse for using picks and pretending they’re pocketknives. I wouldn’t approve of this if we could do it any other way. And I wouldn’t stand by and watch you break the rules, because right is right and wrong is wrong. A person has no business doing something wrong when he knows better. YOU might feel okay digging Jim out with a pick and NOT pretending it’s a pocketknife, because you don’t know any better. But it wouldn’t do for me. I do know better. Gimme a pocketknife.”
He had his own by him, but I handed him mine. He flung it down, and says: His own pocketknife was next to him, but I handed him mine. He threw down, though, and said:
“Gimme a CASE-KNIFE.” “Gimme a POCKETKNIFE.”
I didn’t know just what to do—but then I thought. I scratched around amongst the old tools, and got a pickaxe and give it to him, and he took it and went to work, and never said a word. I didn’t quite know what to do—but then it hit me. I searched through the old tools, got a pickaxe, and gave it to him. He took it and went to work without saying a word.
He was always just that particular. Full of principle. He was always that picky. So full of principles.
So then I got a shovel, and then we picked and shoveled, turn about, and made the fur fly. We stuck to it about a half an hour, which was as long as we could stand up; but we had a good deal of a hole to show for it. When I got up stairs I looked out at the window and see Tom doing his level best with the lightning-rod, but he couldn’t come it, his hands was so sore. At last he says: I got a shovel, and we picked and shoveled, swinging around and making dirt fly everywhere. We kept at it for about half an hour, until we couldn’t stand up straight. But we had a pretty good-sized hole to show for all our work. When I got back upstairs, I looked out the window and saw Tom trying his best to climb back up the lightning rod. He couldn’t do it, though—his hands were too sore. Finally he said: