Well, three or four months run
along, and it was well into the winter now. I
had been to school most all the time and could spell
and read and write just a little, and could say the
multiplication table up to six times seven is thirty-five,
and I don’t reckon I could ever get any further
than that if I was to live forever. I don’t
take no stock in mathematics, anyway.
At first I hated the school, but by
and by I got so I could stand it. Whenever I
got uncommon tired I played hookey, and the hiding
I got next day done me good and cheered me up.
So the longer I went to school the easier it got
to be. I was getting sort of used to the widow’s
ways, too, and they warn’t so raspy on me.
Living in a house and sleeping in a bed pulled on
me pretty tight mostly, but before the cold weather
I used to slide out and sleep in the woods sometimes,
and so that was a rest to me. I liked the old
ways best, but I was getting so I liked the new ones,
too, a little bit. The widow said I was coming
along slow but sure, and doing very satisfactory.
She said she warn’t ashamed of me.
One morning I happened to turn over
the salt-cellar at breakfast. I reached for
some of it as quick as I could to throw over my left
shoulder and keep off the bad luck, but Miss Watson
was in ahead of me, and crossed me off. She says,
“Take your hands away, Huckleberry; what a mess
you are always making!” The widow put in a good
word for me, but that warn’t going to keep off
the bad luck, I knowed that well enough. I started
out, after breakfast, feeling worried and shaky, and
wondering where it was going to fall on me, and what
it was going to be. There is ways to keep off
some kinds of bad luck, but this wasn’t one of
them kind; so I never tried to do anything, but just
poked along low-spirited and on the watch-out.
I went down to the front garden and
clumb over the stile where you go through the high
board fence. There was an inch of new snow on
the ground, and I seen somebody’s tracks.
They had come up from the quarry and stood around
the stile a while, and then went on around the garden
fence. It was funny they hadn’t come in,
after standing around so. I couldn’t make
it out. It was very curious, somehow. I
was going to follow around, but I stooped down to
look at the tracks first. I didn’t notice
anything at first, but next I did. There was
a cross in the left boot-heel made with big nails,
to keep off the devil.
I was up in a second and shinning
down the hill. I looked over my shoulder every
now and then, but I didn’t see nobody.
I was at Judge Thatcher’s as quick as I could
get there. He said:
“Why, my boy, you are all out
of breath. Did you come for your interest?”
“No, sir,” I says; “is there some
“Oh, yes, a half-yearly is in
last night over a hundred and fifty dollars.
Quite a fortune for you. You had better let
me invest it along with your six thousand, because
if you take it you’ll spend it.”
“No, sir,” I says, “I
don’t want to spend it. I don’t want
it at all nor the six thousand, nuther.
I want you to take it; I want to give it to you the
six thousand and all.”
He looked surprised. He couldn’t
seem to make it out. He says:
“Why, what can you mean, my boy?”
I says, “Don’t you ask
me no questions about it, please. You’ll
take it won’t you?”
“Well, I’m puzzled. Is something
“Please take it,” says
I, “and don’t ask me nothing then
I won’t have to tell no lies.”
He studied a while, and then he says:
“Oho-o! I think I see.
You want to sell all your property to me not
give it. That’s the correct idea.”
Then he wrote something on a paper and read it over,
“There; you see it says ‘for
a consideration.’ That means I have bought
it of you and paid you for it. Here’s a
dollar for you. Now you sign it.”
So I signed it, and left.
Miss Watson’s nigger, Jim, had
a hair-ball as big as your fist, which had been took
out of the fourth stomach of an ox, and he used to
do magic with it. He said there was a spirit
inside of it, and it knowed everything. So I
went to him that night and told him pap was here again,
for I found his tracks in the snow. What I wanted
to know was, what he was going to do, and was he going
to stay? Jim got out his hair-ball and said
something over it, and then he held it up and dropped
it on the floor. It fell pretty solid, and only
rolled about an inch. Jim tried it again, and
then another time, and it acted just the same.
Jim got down on his knees, and put his ear against
it and listened. But it warn’t no use;
he said it wouldn’t talk. He said sometimes
it wouldn’t talk without money. I told
him I had an old slick counterfeit quarter that warn’t
no good because the brass showed through the silver
a little, and it wouldn’t pass nohow, even if
the brass didn’t show, because it was so slick
it felt greasy, and so that would tell on it every
time. (I reckoned I wouldn’t say nothing about
the dollar I got from the judge.) I said it was pretty
bad money, but maybe the hair-ball would take it,
because maybe it wouldn’t know the difference.
Jim smelt it and bit it and rubbed it, and said he
would manage so the hair-ball would think it was good.
He said he would split open a raw Irish potato and
stick the quarter in between and keep it there all
night, and next morning you couldn’t see no
brass, and it wouldn’t feel greasy no more, and
so anybody in town would take it in a minute, let
alone a hair-ball. Well, I knowed a potato would
do that before, but I had forgot it.
Jim put the quarter under the hair-ball,
and got down and listened again. This time he
said the hair-ball was all right. He said it
would tell my whole fortune if I wanted it to.
I says, go on. So the hair-ball talked to Jim,
and Jim told it to me. He says:
“Yo’ olé father
doan’ know yit what he’s a-gwyne to do.
Sometimes he spec he’ll go ‘way, en den
agin he spec he’ll stay. De bes’
way is to res’ easy en let de olé man take
his own way. Dey’s two angels hoverin’
roun’ ’bout him. One uv ’em
is white en shiny, en t’other one is black.
De white one gits him to go right a little while, den
de black one sail in en bust it all up. A body
can’t tell yit which one gwyne to fetch him
at de las’. But you is all right.
You gwyne to have considable trouble in yo’
life, en considable joy. Sometimes you gwyne
to git hurt, en sometimes you gwyne to git sick; but
every time you’s gwyne to git well agin.
Dey’s two gals flyin’ ‘bout you
in yo’ life. One uv ’em’s
light en t’other one is dark. One is rich
en t’other is po’. You’s
gwyne to marry de po’ one fust en de rich
one by en by. You wants to keep ’way fum
de water as much as you kin, en don’t run no
resk, ’kase it’s down in de bills dat
you’s gwyne to git hung.”
When I lit my candle and went up to
my room that night there sat pap his own