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Home -> Mark Twain -> Huckleberry Finn -> Chapter 29

Huckleberry Finn - Chapter 29

1. Chapter 1

2. Chapter 2

3. Chapter 3

4. Chapter 4

5. Chapter 5

6. Chapter 6

7. Chapter 7

8. Chapter 8

9. Chapter 9

10. Chapter 10

11. Chapter 11

12. Chapter 12

13. Chapter 13

14. Chapter 14

15. Chapter 15

16. Chapter 16

17. Chapter 17

18. Chapter 18

19. Chapter 19

20. Chapter 20

21. Chapter 21

22. Chapter 22

23. Chapter 23

24. Chapter 24

25. Chapter 25

26. Chapter 26

27. Chapter 27

28. Chapter 28

29. Chapter 29

30. Chapter 30

31. Chapter 31

32. Chapter 32

33. Chapter 33

34. Chapter 34

35. Chapter 35

36. Chapter 36

37. Chapter 37

38. Chapter 38

39. Chapter 39

40. Chapter 40

41. Chapter 41

42. Chapter 42

43. Chapter The Last

THEY was fetching a very nice-looking old gentleman along, and a
nice-looking younger one, with his right arm in a sling. And, my souls,
how the people yelled and laughed, and kept it up. But I didn't see no
joke about it, and I judged it would strain the duke and the king some to
see any. I reckoned they'd turn pale. But no, nary a pale did THEY
turn. The duke he never let on he suspicioned what was up, but just went
a goo-gooing around, happy and satisfied, like a jug that's googling out
buttermilk; and as for the king, he just gazed and gazed down sorrowful
on them new-comers like it give him the stomach-ache in his very heart to
think there could be such frauds and rascals in the world. Oh, he done
it admirable. Lots of the principal people gethered around the king, to
let him see they was on his side. That old gentleman that had just come
looked all puzzled to death. Pretty soon he begun to speak, and I see
straight off he pronounced LIKE an Englishman--not the king's way, though
the king's WAS pretty good for an imitation. I can't give the old gent's
words, nor I can't imitate him; but he turned around to the crowd, and
says, about like this:

"This is a surprise to me which I wasn't looking for; and I'll
acknowledge, candid and frank, I ain't very well fixed to meet it and
answer it; for my brother and me has had misfortunes; he's broke his arm,
and our baggage got put off at a town above here last night in the night
by a mistake. I am Peter Wilks' brother Harvey, and this is his brother
William, which can't hear nor speak--and can't even make signs to amount
to much, now't he's only got one hand to work them with. We are who we
say we are; and in a day or two, when I get the baggage, I can prove it.
But up till then I won't say nothing more, but go to the hotel and wait."

So him and the new dummy started off; and the king he laughs, and
blethers out:

"Broke his arm--VERY likely, AIN'T it?--and very convenient, too, for a
fraud that's got to make signs, and ain't learnt how. Lost their
baggage! That's MIGHTY good!--and mighty ingenious--under the

So he laughed again; and so did everybody else, except three or four, or
maybe half a dozen. One of these was that doctor; another one was a
sharp-looking gentleman, with a carpet-bag of the old-fashioned kind made
out of carpet-stuff, that had just come off of the steamboat and was
talking to him in a low voice, and glancing towards the king now and then
and nodding their heads--it was Levi Bell, the lawyer that was gone up to
Louisville; and another one was a big rough husky that come along and
listened to all the old gentleman said, and was listening to the king
now. And when the king got done this husky up and says:

"Say, looky here; if you are Harvey Wilks, when'd you come to this town?"

"The day before the funeral, friend," says the king.

"But what time o' day?"

"In the evenin'--'bout an hour er two before sundown."

"HOW'D you come?"

"I come down on the Susan Powell from Cincinnati."

"Well, then, how'd you come to be up at the Pint in the MORNIN'--in a

"I warn't up at the Pint in the mornin'."

"It's a lie."

Several of them jumped for him and begged him not to talk that way to an
old man and a preacher.

"Preacher be hanged, he's a fraud and a liar. He was up at the Pint that
mornin'. I live up there, don't I? Well, I was up there, and he was up
there. I see him there. He come in a canoe, along with Tim Collins and
a boy."

The doctor he up and says:

"Would you know the boy again if you was to see him, Hines?"

"I reckon I would, but I don't know. Why, yonder he is, now. I know him
perfectly easy."

It was me he pointed at. The doctor says:

"Neighbors, I don't know whether the new couple is frauds or not; but if
THESE two ain't frauds, I am an idiot, that's all. I think it's our duty
to see that they don't get away from here till we've looked into this
thing. Come along, Hines; come along, the rest of you. We'll take these
fellows to the tavern and affront them with t'other couple, and I reckon
we'll find out SOMETHING before we get through."

It was nuts for the crowd, though maybe not for the king's friends; so we
all started. It was about sundown. The doctor he led me along by the
hand, and was plenty kind enough, but he never let go my hand.

We all got in a big room in the hotel, and lit up some candles, and
fetched in the new couple. First, the doctor says:

"I don't wish to be too hard on these two men, but I think they're
frauds, and they may have complices that we don't know nothing about. If
they have, won't the complices get away with that bag of gold Peter Wilks
left? It ain't unlikely. If these men ain't frauds, they won't object
to sending for that money and letting us keep it till they prove they're
all right--ain't that so?"

Everybody agreed to that. So I judged they had our gang in a pretty
tight place right at the outstart. But the king he only looked
sorrowful, and says:

"Gentlemen, I wish the money was there, for I ain't got no disposition to
throw anything in the way of a fair, open, out-and-out investigation o'
this misable business; but, alas, the money ain't there; you k'n send and
see, if you want to."

"Where is it, then?"

"Well, when my niece give it to me to keep for her I took and hid it
inside o' the straw tick o' my bed, not wishin' to bank it for the few
days we'd be here, and considerin' the bed a safe place, we not bein'
used to niggers, and suppos'n' 'em honest, like servants in England. The
niggers stole it the very next mornin' after I had went down stairs; and
when I sold 'em I hadn't missed the money yit, so they got clean away
with it. My servant here k'n tell you 'bout it, gentlemen."

The doctor and several said "Shucks!" and I see nobody didn't altogether
believe him. One man asked me if I see the niggers steal it. I said no,
but I see them sneaking out of the room and hustling away, and I never
thought nothing, only I reckoned they was afraid they had waked up my
master and was trying to get away before he made trouble with them. That
was all they asked me. Then the doctor whirls on me and says:

"Are YOU English, too?"

I says yes; and him and some others laughed, and said, "Stuff!"

Well, then they sailed in on the general investigation, and there we had
it, up and down, hour in, hour out, and nobody never said a word about
supper, nor ever seemed to think about it--and so they kept it up, and
kept it up; and it WAS the worst mixed-up thing you ever see. They made
the king tell his yarn, and they made the old gentleman tell his'n; and
anybody but a lot of prejudiced chuckleheads would a SEEN that the old
gentleman was spinning truth and t'other one lies. And by and by they
had me up to tell what I knowed. The king he give me a left-handed look
out of the corner of his eye, and so I knowed enough to talk on the right
side. I begun to tell about Sheffield, and how we lived there, and all
about the English Wilkses, and so on; but I didn't get pretty fur till
the doctor begun to laugh; and Levi Bell, the lawyer, says:

"Set down, my boy; I wouldn't strain myself if I was you. I reckon you
ain't used to lying, it don't seem to come handy; what you want is
practice. You do it pretty awkward."

I didn't care nothing for the compliment, but I was glad to be let off,

The doctor he started to say something, and turns and says:

"If you'd been in town at first, Levi Bell--" The king broke in and
reached out his hand, and says:

"Why, is this my poor dead brother's old friend that he's wrote so often

The lawyer and him shook hands, and the lawyer smiled and looked pleased,
and they talked right along awhile, and then got to one side and talked
low; and at last the lawyer speaks up and says:

"That 'll fix it. I'll take the order and send it, along with your
brother's, and then they'll know it's all right."

So they got some paper and a pen, and the king he set down and twisted
his head to one side, and chawed his tongue, and scrawled off something;
and then they give the pen to the duke--and then for the first time the
duke looked sick. But he took the pen and wrote. So then the lawyer
turns to the new old gentleman and says:

"You and your brother please write a line or two and sign your names."

The old gentleman wrote, but nobody couldn't read it. The lawyer looked
powerful astonished, and says:

"Well, it beats ME"--and snaked a lot of old letters out of his pocket,
and examined them, and then examined the old man's writing, and then THEM
again; and then says: "These old letters is from Harvey Wilks; and
here's THESE two handwritings, and anybody can see they didn't write
them" (the king and the duke looked sold and foolish, I tell you, to see
how the lawyer had took them in), "and here's THIS old gentleman's hand
writing, and anybody can tell, easy enough, HE didn't write them--fact
is, the scratches he makes ain't properly WRITING at all. Now, here's
some letters from--"

The new old gentleman says:

"If you please, let me explain. Nobody can read my hand but my brother
there--so he copies for me. It's HIS hand you've got there, not mine."

"WELL!" says the lawyer, "this IS a state of things. I've got some of
William's letters, too; so if you'll get him to write a line or so we can

"He CAN'T write with his left hand," says the old gentleman. "If he
could use his right hand, you would see that he wrote his own letters and
mine too. Look at both, please--they're by the same hand."

The lawyer done it, and says:

"I believe it's so--and if it ain't so, there's a heap stronger
resemblance than I'd noticed before, anyway. Well, well, well! I
thought we was right on the track of a solution, but it's gone to grass,
partly. But anyway, one thing is proved--THESE two ain't either of 'em
Wilkses"--and he wagged his head towards the king and the duke.

Well, what do you think? That muleheaded old fool wouldn't give in THEN!
Indeed he wouldn't. Said it warn't no fair test. Said his brother
William was the cussedest joker in the world, and hadn't tried to write
--HE see William was going to play one of his jokes the minute he put the
pen to paper. And so he warmed up and went warbling right along till he
was actuly beginning to believe what he was saying HIMSELF; but pretty
soon the new gentleman broke in, and says:

"I've thought of something. Is there anybody here that helped to lay out
my br--helped to lay out the late Peter Wilks for burying?"

"Yes," says somebody, "me and Ab Turner done it. We're both here."

Then the old man turns towards the king, and says:

"Perhaps this gentleman can tell me what was tattooed on his breast?"

Blamed if the king didn't have to brace up mighty quick, or he'd a
squshed down like a bluff bank that the river has cut under, it took him
so sudden; and, mind you, it was a thing that was calculated to make most
ANYBODY sqush to get fetched such a solid one as that without any notice,
because how was HE going to know what was tattooed on the man? He
whitened a little; he couldn't help it; and it was mighty still in there,
and everybody bending a little forwards and gazing at him. Says I to
myself, NOW he'll throw up the sponge--there ain't no more use. Well,
did he? A body can't hardly believe it, but he didn't. I reckon he
thought he'd keep the thing up till he tired them people out, so they'd
thin out, and him and the duke could break loose and get away. Anyway,
he set there, and pretty soon he begun to smile, and says:

"Mf! It's a VERY tough question, AIN'T it! YES, sir, I k'n tell you
what's tattooed on his breast. It's jest a small, thin, blue arrow
--that's what it is; and if you don't look clost, you can't see it. NOW
what do you say--hey?"

Well, I never see anything like that old blister for clean out-and-out

The new old gentleman turns brisk towards Ab Turner and his pard, and his
eye lights up like he judged he'd got the king THIS time, and says:

"There--you've heard what he said! Was there any such mark on Peter
Wilks' breast?"

Both of them spoke up and says:

"We didn't see no such mark."

"Good!" says the old gentleman. "Now, what you DID see on his breast was
a small dim P, and a B (which is an initial he dropped when he was
young), and a W, with dashes between them, so: P--B--W"--and he marked
them that way on a piece of paper. "Come, ain't that what you saw?"

Both of them spoke up again, and says:

"No, we DIDN'T. We never seen any marks at all."

Well, everybody WAS in a state of mind now, and they sings out:

"The whole BILIN' of 'm 's frauds! Le's duck 'em! le's drown 'em! le's
ride 'em on a rail!" and everybody was whooping at once, and there was a
rattling powwow. But the lawyer he jumps on the table and yells, and

"Gentlemen--gentleMEN! Hear me just a word--just a SINGLE word--if you
PLEASE! There's one way yet--let's go and dig up the corpse and look."

That took them.

"Hooray!" they all shouted, and was starting right off; but the lawyer
and the doctor sung out:

"Hold on, hold on! Collar all these four men and the boy, and fetch THEM
along, too!"

"We'll do it!" they all shouted; "and if we don't find them marks we'll
lynch the whole gang!"

I WAS scared, now, I tell you. But there warn't no getting away, you
know. They gripped us all, and marched us right along, straight for the
graveyard, which was a mile and a half down the river, and the whole town
at our heels, for we made noise enough, and it was only nine in the

As we went by our house I wished I hadn't sent Mary Jane out of town;
because now if I could tip her the wink she'd light out and save me, and
blow on our dead-beats.

Well, we swarmed along down the river road, just carrying on like
wildcats; and to make it more scary the sky was darking up, and the
lightning beginning to wink and flitter, and the wind to shiver amongst
the leaves. This was the most awful trouble and most dangersome I ever
was in; and I was kinder stunned; everything was going so different from
what I had allowed for; stead of being fixed so I could take my own time
if I wanted to, and see all the fun, and have Mary Jane at my back to
save me and set me free when the close-fit come, here was nothing in the
world betwixt me and sudden death but just them tattoo-marks. If they
didn't find them--

I couldn't bear to think about it; and yet, somehow, I couldn't think
about nothing else. It got darker and darker, and it was a beautiful
time to give the crowd the slip; but that big husky had me by the wrist
--Hines--and a body might as well try to give Goliar the slip. He dragged
me right along, he was so excited, and I had to run to keep up.

When they got there they swarmed into the graveyard and washed over it
like an overflow. And when they got to the grave they found they had
about a hundred times as many shovels as they wanted, but nobody hadn't
thought to fetch a lantern. But they sailed into digging anyway by the
flicker of the lightning, and sent a man to the nearest house, a half a
mile off, to borrow one.

So they dug and dug like everything; and it got awful dark, and the rain
started, and the wind swished and swushed along, and the lightning come
brisker and brisker, and the thunder boomed; but them people never took
no notice of it, they was so full of this business; and one minute you
could see everything and every face in that big crowd, and the shovelfuls
of dirt sailing up out of the grave, and the next second the dark wiped
it all out, and you couldn't see nothing at all.

At last they got out the coffin and begun to unscrew the lid, and then
such another crowding and shouldering and shoving as there was, to
scrouge in and get a sight, you never see; and in the dark, that way, it
was awful. Hines he hurt my wrist dreadful pulling and tugging so, and I
reckon he clean forgot I was in the world, he was so excited and panting.

All of a sudden the lightning let go a perfect sluice of white glare, and
somebody sings out:

"By the living jingo, here's the bag of gold on his breast!"

Hines let out a whoop, like everybody else, and dropped my wrist and give
a big surge to bust his way in and get a look, and the way I lit out and
shinned for the road in the dark there ain't nobody can tell.

I had the road all to myself, and I fairly flew--leastways, I had it all
to myself except the solid dark, and the now-and-then glares, and the
buzzing of the rain, and the thrashing of the wind, and the splitting of
the thunder; and sure as you are born I did clip it along!

When I struck the town I see there warn't nobody out in the storm, so I
never hunted for no back streets, but humped it straight through the main
one; and when I begun to get towards our house I aimed my eye and set it.
No light there; the house all dark--which made me feel sorry and
disappointed, I didn't know why. But at last, just as I was sailing by,
FLASH comes the light in Mary Jane's window! and my heart swelled up
sudden, like to bust; and the same second the house and all was behind me
in the dark, and wasn't ever going to be before me no more in this world.
She WAS the best girl I ever see, and had the most sand.

The minute I was far enough above the town to see I could make the
towhead, I begun to look sharp for a boat to borrow, and the first time
the lightning showed me one that wasn't chained I snatched it and shoved.
It was a canoe, and warn't fastened with nothing but a rope. The towhead
was a rattling big distance off, away out there in the middle of the
river, but I didn't lose no time; and when I struck the raft at last I
was so fagged I would a just laid down to blow and gasp if I could
afforded it. But I didn't. As I sprung aboard I sung out:

"Out with you, Jim, and set her loose! Glory be to goodness, we're shut
of them!"

Jim lit out, and was a-coming for me with both arms spread, he was so
full of joy; but when I glimpsed him in the lightning my heart shot up in
my mouth and I went overboard backwards; for I forgot he was old King
Lear and a drownded A-rab all in one, and it most scared the livers and
lights out of me. But Jim fished me out, and was going to hug me and
bless me, and so on, he was so glad I was back and we was shut of the
king and the duke, but I says:

"Not now; have it for breakfast, have it for breakfast! Cut loose and
let her slide!"

So in two seconds away we went a-sliding down the river, and it DID seem
so good to be free again and all by ourselves on the big river, and
nobody to bother us. I had to skip around a bit, and jump up and crack
my heels a few times--I couldn't help it; but about the third crack I
noticed a sound that I knowed mighty well, and held my breath and
listened and waited; and sure enough, when the next flash busted out over
the water, here they come!--and just a-laying to their oars and making
their skiff hum! It was the king and the duke.

So I wilted right down on to the planks then, and give up; and it was all
I could do to keep from crying.

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