Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn had found a box of gold in a robber’s cave. After Judge Thatcher had taken the money and invested it for the boys, each had the huge allowance of a dollar a day. The Widow Douglas and her sister, Miss Watson, had taken Huck home with them to try to reform him. At first, Huck could not stand living in a tidy house where smoking and swearing were forbidden. Worse, he had to go to school and learn how to read. He did, however, manage to drag himself to school almost every day, except for the times when he sneaked off for a smoke in the woods or to go fishing on the Mississippi River.
Life was beginning to become bearable to him when one day he noticed a boot print in the snow. Examining it closely, he realized that it belonged to his worthless father, whom he had not seen for more than a year. Knowing that his father would be looking for him when he learned about the money, Huck rushed to Judge Thatcher and persuaded him to take the fortune for himself. The judge was puzzled, but he signed some papers, and Huck was satisfied that he no longer had any money for his father to take from him.
Huck’s father showed up one night in Huck’s room at Widow Douglas’ home. Complaining that he had been cheated out of his money, the old drunkard later took Huck away with him to a cabin in the Illinois woods, where he kept the boy a prisoner, beating him periodically and half starving him. Huck was allowed to smoke and swear, however, and before long he began to wonder why he had ever liked living with the widow. His life with his father would have been pleasant if it had not been for the beatings. One day, he sneaked away, leaving a bloody trail from a pig he had killed in the woods. Huck wanted everyone to believe he was dead. He climbed into a canoe and went to Jackson’s Island to hide until all the excitement had blown over.
After three days of freedom, Huck wandered to another part of the island, and there he discovered Jim, Miss Watson’s black slave, who told Huck that he had run off because he had overheard Miss Watson planning to sell him down south for eight hundred dollars. Huck swore he would not report Jim. The two stayed on the island many days, Jim giving Huck an education in primitive superstition. One night, Huck paddled back to the mainland. Disguised as a girl, he called on a home near the shore. There he learned that his father had disappeared shortly after the people of the town concluded that Huck had been murdered. Since Jim had disappeared just after Huck’s apparent death, there was now a three-hundred-dollar reward posted for Jim’s capture, for most people believed that he had killed Huck.
Knowing that Jackson’s Island would soon be searched, Huck hurried back to Jim, and the two headed down the Mississippi on a raft. They planned to sell the raft at Cairo, Illinois, and then go on a steamboat up the Ohio River into free territory. Jim told Huck that he would work hard in the North and then buy his wife and children from their masters in the South. Helping a runaway slave bothered Huck’s conscience, but he reasoned that it would bother him more if he betrayed a good friend. One night, as they were drifting down the river on their raft, a large steamboat loomed before them, and Huck and Jim, knowing that the raft would be smashed under the hull of the ship, jumped into the water. Huck swam safely to shore, but Jim disappeared.
Huck found a home with a friendly family named Grangerford, who were feuding with the nearby Shepherdson family. The Grangerfords treated Huck kindly and left him mostly to himself, even giving him a young slave to wait on him. One day, the slave asked him to come to the woods to see some snakes. Following the boy, Huck came across Jim, who had been hiding in the woods waiting for an opportunity to send for Huck. Jim had repaired the broken raft. That night, one of the Grangerford daughters eloped with a young Shepherdson, and the feud broke out once...
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