I wanted to go and look at a
place right about the middle of the island that I’d
found when I was exploring; so we started and soon
got to it, because the island was only three miles
long and a quarter of a mile wide.
This place was a tolerable long, steep
hill or ridge about forty foot high. We had a
rough time getting to the top, the sides was so steep
and the bushes so thick. We tramped and clumb
around all over it, and by and by found a good big
cavern in the rock, most up to the top on the side
towards Illinois. The cavern was as big as two
or three rooms bunched together, and Jim could stand
up straight in it. It was cool in there.
Jim was for putting our traps in there right away,
but I said we didn’t want to be climbing up
and down there all the time.
Jim said if we had the canoe hid in
a good place, and had all the traps in the cavern,
we could rush there if anybody was to come to the island,
and they would never find us without dogs. And,
besides, he said them little birds had said it was
going to rain, and did I want the things to get wet?
So we went back and got the canoe,
and paddled up abreast the cavern, and lugged all
the traps up there. Then we hunted up a place
close by to hide the canoe in, amongst the thick willows.
We took some fish off of the lines and set them again,
and begun to get ready for dinner.
The door of the cavern was big enough
to roll a hogshead in, and on one side of the door
the floor stuck out a little bit, and was flat and
a good place to build a fire on. So we built
it there and cooked dinner.
We spread the blankets inside for
a carpet, and eat our dinner in there. We put
all the other things handy at the back of the cavern.
Pretty soon it darkened up, and begun to thunder
and lighten; so the birds was right about it.
Directly it begun to rain, and it rained like all
fury, too, and I never see the wind blow so.
It was one of these regular summer storms.
It would get so dark that it looked all blue-black
outside, and lovely; and the rain would thrash along
by so thick that the trees off a little ways looked
dim and spider-webby; and here would come a blast of
wind that would bend the trees down and turn up the
pale underside of the leaves; and then a perfect ripper
of a gust would follow along and set the branches
to tossing their arms as if they was just wild; and
next, when it was just about the bluest and blackest FST!
it was as bright as glory, and you’d have a
little glimpse of tree-tops a-plunging about away
off yonder in the storm, hundreds of yards further
than you could see before; dark as sin again in a
second, and now you’d hear the thunder let go
with an awful crash, and then go rumbling, grumbling,
tumbling, down the sky towards the under side of the
world, like rolling empty barrels down stairs where
it’s long stairs and they bounce a good deal,
“Jim, this is nice,” I
says. “I wouldn’t want to be nowhere
else but here. Pass me along another hunk of
fish and some hot corn-bread.”
“Well, you wouldn’t a
ben here ’f it hadn’t a ben
for Jim. You’d a ben down dah in
de woods widout any dinner, en gittn’ mos’
drownded, too; dat you would, honey. Chickens
knows when it’s gwyne to rain, en so do de birds,
The river went on raising and raising
for ten or twelve days, till at last it was over the
banks. The water was three or four foot deep
on the island in the low places and on the Illinois
bottom. On that side it was a good many miles
wide, but on the Missouri side it was the same old
distance across a half a mile because
the Missouri shore was just a wall of high bluffs.
Daytimes we paddled all over the island
in the canoe, It was mighty cool and shady in the
deep woods, even if the sun was blazing outside.
We went winding in and out amongst the trees, and
sometimes the vines hung so thick we had to back away
and go some other way. Well, on every old broken-down
tree you could see rabbits and snakes and such things;
and when the island had been overflowed a day or two
they got so tame, on account of being hungry, that
you could paddle right up and put your hand on them
if you wanted to; but not the snakes and turtles they
would slide off in the water. The ridge our
cavern was in was full of them. We could a had
pets enough if we’d wanted them.
One night we catched a little section
of a lumber raft nice pine planks.
It was twelve foot wide and about fifteen or sixteen
foot long, and the top stood above water six or seven
inches a solid, level floor. We could
see saw-logs go by in the daylight sometimes, but we
let them go; we didn’t show ourselves in daylight.
Another night when we was up at the
head of the island, just before daylight, here comes
a frame-house down, on the west side. She was
a two-story, and tilted over considerable. We
paddled out and got aboard clumb in at
an upstairs window. But it was too dark to see
yet, so we made the canoe fast and set in her to wait
The light begun to come before we
got to the foot of the island. Then we looked
in at the window. We could make out a bed, and
a table, and two old chairs, and lots of things around
about on the floor, and there was clothes hanging
against the wall. There was something laying
on the floor in the far corner that looked like a
man. So Jim says:
But it didn’t budge. So I hollered again,
and then Jim says:
“De man ain’t asleep he’s
dead. You hold still I’ll go
He went, and bent down and looked, and says:
“It’s a dead man.
Yes, indeedy; naked, too. He’s ben
shot in de back. I reck’n he’s ben
dead two er three days. Come in, Huck, but doan’
look at his face it’s too gashly.”
I didn’t look at him at all.
Jim throwed some old rags over him, but he needn’t
done it; I didn’t want to see him. There
was heaps of old greasy cards scattered around over
the floor, and old whisky bottles, and a couple of
masks made out of black cloth; and all over the walls
was the ignorantest kind of words and pictures made
with charcoal. There was two old dirty calico
dresses, and a sun-bonnet, and some women’s underclothes
hanging against the wall, and some men’s clothing,
too. We put the lot into the canoe it
might come good. There was a boy’s old
speckled straw hat on the floor; I took that, too.
And there was a bottle that had had milk in it, and
it had a rag stopper for a baby to suck. We would
a took the bottle, but it was broke. There was
a seedy old chest, and an old hair trunk with the
hinges broke. They stood open, but there warn’t
nothing left in them that was any account. The
way things was scattered about we reckoned the people
left in a hurry, and warn’t fixed so as to carry
off most of their stuff.
We got an old tin lantern, and a butcher-knife
without any handle, and a bran-new Barlow knife worth
two bits in any store, and a lot of tallow candles,
and a tin candlestick, and a gourd, and a tin cup,
and a ratty old bedquilt off the bed, and a reticule
with needles and pins and beeswax and buttons and
thread and all such truck in it, and a hatchet and
some nails, and a fishline as thick as my little finger
with some monstrous hooks on it, and a roll of buckskin,
and a leather dog-collar, and a horseshoe, and some
vials of medicine that didn’t have no label on
them; and just as we was leaving I found a tolerable
good curry-comb, and Jim he found a ratty old fiddle-bow,
and a wooden leg. The straps was broke off of
it, but, barring that, it was a good enough leg, though
it was too long for me and not long enough for Jim,
and we couldn’t find the other one, though we
hunted all around.
And so, take it all around, we made
a good haul. When we was ready to shove off
we was a quarter of a mile below the island, and it
was pretty broad day; so I made Jim lay down in the
canoe and cover up with the quilt, because if he set
up people could tell he was a nigger a good ways off.
I paddled over to the Illinois shore, and drifted
down most a half a mile doing it. I crept up
the dead water under the bank, and hadn’t no
accidents and didn’t see nobody. We got
home all safe.