La morte amoureuse

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Théophile Gautier

Chapter 8

Huck camps at Jackson Island and in the morning, he sees the search crew on the river trying to raise his corpse by shooting a cannon. The crew consists of Judge Thatcher, Tom, Aunt Polly, Pap and others. Huck is hungry and wants to eat, but he does not want to risk starting a fire, so he snatches a loaf of bread stuffed with quicksilver from the river, which the crew has set out to help locate the dead. This tides him over, and he begins to explore the island.

During his exploration, Huck stumbles upon the slave Jim who has run away from Miss Watson. At first Jim thinks Huck is a ghost because he has heard of Huck’s “death.” Huck tells the story of his escape from Pap, and Jim tells the reason for his running away: a slave trader had come to town and Jim overhead Miss Watson say that she could get $800 for Jim, so Jim ran off before any sale could take place. Huck is shocked, but he has given his word not to tell anyone, and so he says that he will keep it even if he is accused of being an “Abolitionist.”

They eat. Jim relates a number of superstitions to Huck and several anecdotes about Jim’s financial misadventures, which all came about from failed investments: one in a cow, another in a bank, and another in a supposedly lucky fool.

In this chapter, both Huck and Jim show some common sense: Huck manages to fill his belly without drawing attention to his whereabouts, and Jim shows some wisdom concerning wealth (which he has learned the hard way).

Chapter 9

Huck and Jim discover a cave where they can store their traps and stay dry while it storms. Huck enjoys himself and is glad Jim could interpret the actions of the small birds and identify a need to find shelter from the coming storm.

While on the island, they catch a log raft floating down the river. They also investigate the contents of a two-story house also floating down the river. Inside is a dead man who has been shot in the back. Jim looks at his face and tells Huck not to look because it is too awful.

They clean out the house and take in a considerable haul and head back for the island. Aside from the dead man whose identity remains a mystery for the time being (at least to Huck), life is very pleasant and agreeable for the two.

In this chapter, Twain reveals Jim’s craftiness without the reader actually knowing it. The dead man in the floating house is actually Huck’s Pap. Jim keeps Huck from realizing it because it is his own father and he does not want him to have to see that. The reader, of course, is denied the information just as Huck is—but the incident is nonetheless recorded and is not told Huck until the very last page of the novel, when Jim confirms for Huck that his gold is safe because his Pap is dead.

Chapter 10

Jim and Huck find eight dollars sewn up in a blanket taken from the house and Huck considers it great luck, even though he has handled a snakeskin earlier in the week—which is supposed to bring bad luck. Jim says the bad luck is still to come and Huck relates that Jim was right for later Jim is bitten on the heel by a rattlesnake.

The snakebite happened this way: Huck killed a rattler and put the dead snake in Jim’s bed in the cave as a practical joke. However, Huck forgot that a snake’s mate will often coil itself around the dead snake—which is exactly what happened this time. Jim got in bed and the live mate attacked. Huck killed the snake and never confessed that it was only there on account of the other snake. Instead, he cooks a piece of the snake and feeds it to Jim, as Jim says this will help. Jim also sucks down a great deal of Pap’s whiskey to help fight the poison. His foot and leg swell considerably, but after four days he is back in good condition.

The two continue fishing and catch a six-foot two-hundred pound catfish using a skinned rabbit as bait. They comment on the contents of the fish’s belly and the price he would fetch at the market.

The next day, Huck decides to sneak back into town to check up on any news. Jim says he ought to disguise himself as a girl, using some of the clothes they gathered from their spoils on their river. Huck heads into town that night and lights upon a shanty occupied by a woman in her forties whose face is unknown to Huck. He decides that since he does not know her, she is not likely to know him—and thus she will do for a source of news.

Chapter 11

The woman invites Huck indoors and he tells her his name is Sarah Williams and invents a story for his being there in town all alone so late at night. The woman in turn tells her own story and then finally gets to recent events. It appears that some people suspect Jim of having murdered Huck. In fact, there is a reward out for the capture of Jim. The woman, who has seen smoke on Jackson’s Island, has told her husband that the runaway slave may be there, which is why her husband is out so late: he is out rounding up help for a search. During this exchange of information, the woman observes that Huck does not act like a girl; he does not thread a needle like a girl, or throw like a girl, or catch something in his lap like a girl—or even remember that his name is Sarah (saying it is Mary when she quizzes him again).

Finally, she suspects that Huck is a runaway apprentice dressed up like a girl so as not to be caught. Huck lets her think just that and fabricates another story about how he has really run away from a cruel tyrant of a tradesman and is really on his way to Goshen. The woman identifies herself as Mrs. Judith Loftus and tells Huck, who now says his name is George Peters, that if he should need any help to send word back to her.

Huck sets straight out for the island and starts a campfire at the head of the island to throw off the search party. Then he rouses Jim and the two break camp quickly and quietly. With the canoe and the raft, they slip down river in the dark of the night.

Again, this chapter shows remarkable intelligence on the part of Huck. The campfire at the head of the Island buys them enough time to sneak away without getting caught. And his ability to make up stories shows that he is just as crafty as Jim. He also fails to mention to Jim that he is now suspected of murder—so both have a secret that the other might like to know.

Chapter 12

The two float down the Mississippi and pass St. Louis. Huck goes ashore at night to buy corn meal or bacon from whatever nearby town. In the morning before daylight, he swipes a gourd from wherever he can. He remembers that Pap had said it was okay to borrow gourds like that, but he also remembers that the Widow had said this kind of borrowing was nothing more than stealing. So Jim says that both are probably right and the two decide to place a limitation on their borrowing: no crabapples or p’simmons (which is just fine with Huck).

Before long they come upon a wrecked steamboat. Huck proposes that they poke around but Jim does not like the idea. Nonetheless, they go aboard. On board are three robbers, Bill, Jim Turner and Jake Packard—and one of them is tied up. Huck overhears their plan to leave the one who is tied up so that when the steamer breaks up, he will sink with it and they won’t have to kill him themselves. Huck thinks this is unfair so he plans to untie the robbers’ raft leaving them all to suffer the same plight. Meanwhile, Huck and Jim’s own raft has slipped away leaving Jim and Huck stranded on a steamer full of murderous robbers.

Chapter 13

While the robbers Bill and Packard decide to relieve Turner of his cut, Huck and Jim untie their boat and use it to chase after their own raft, which they eventually catch up to. Huck, however, begins to feel bad for leaving the robbers on board the steamer with no means of escape, so he stops at a ferryboat and cooks up a story about his family being stranded on the steamer. The watchman is moved to help and Huck’s conscience is put at ease. He even thinks the Widow would be proud of him for taking such trouble on account of such “deadbeats” as the robbers—but then he reckons that “deadbeats” is just the kind that good people like the Widow like to help out most.

However, as Huck departs the ferry, he spots the steamer, now sunk, drifting down the river. He surmises that he is too late and that the robbers have all perished, but still searches around it for signs of life.

In this chapter, Huck displays the depth of his morality and conscience. Even though he knows the robbers are without mercy, he is inclined to help them. In a way, Huck’s sense of right and wrong is formed by both his days with Pap and his time with the Widow, and is neither too extreme in one direction nor too extreme in the other—but somewhat balanced.

Chapter 14

Huck and Jim secured for themselves the robbers’ booty and now they look it over: it contains boots, blankets, cigars, books, clothes and much more. Both of them decide that they have never been so rich (even though Huck has thousands in gold back home). Huck reads aloud to Jim from the books and the two of them get in a discussion about the nature of dukes and kings.

Jim gives his two cents on the wisdom of Solomon, which, he says, is not very impressive, using the story of the baby claimed by two different women as illustrative of his point. Huck tries to reason with him and show Jim that he has missed the point about Solomon but Jim will not listen.

Huck switches the topic to the French dauphin, but Jim refuses to accept that French is an acceptable language for a man to speak. Huck tries to show that cats do not speak the same as dogs, nor dogs the same as men. Jim counters this argument by saying that a cat is not a dog, nor a dog a man, but that a Frenchman is a man and so he should talk like a man. Huck gives up, stating that it is useless to argue with a nigger.

In this chapter, Twain shows the humorous manner in which the boy and the slave reason matters out. Jim, in particular, has a persuasive rhetoric that reveals a unique and original perspective on things—even if it is contrary to the accepted wisdom of the day.

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