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Well, before long here comes the wreck, dim and dusky, sliding along down! A kind of cold shiver went through me, and then I struck out for her. She was very deep, and I see in a minute there warn't much chance for anybody being alive in her. I pulled all around her and hollered a little, but there wasn't any answer; all dead still. I felt a little bit heavy-hearted about the gang, but not much, for I reckoned if they could stand it I could. (13.50)
Huck may not be much for rules and laws, but he does have a strong moral compass. He may have been ready to get the thieves hung, but he doesn't them to drown without a fair trial. Confused? Imagine how Huck feels.
Well, I can tell you it made me all over trembly and feverish, too, to hear him, because I begun to get it through my head that he WAS most free—and who was to blame for it? Why, ME. I couldn't get that out of my conscience, no how nor no way. It got to troubling me so I couldn't rest; I couldn't stay still in one place. It hadn't ever come home to me before, what this thing was that I was doing. But now it did; and it stayed with me, and scorched me more and more. I tried to make out to myself that I warn't to blame, because I didn't run Jim off from his rightful owner; but it warn't no use, conscience up and says, every time, "But you knowed he was running for his freedom, and you could a paddled ashore and told somebody." That was so—I couldn't get around that noway. That was where it pinched. (16)
Talk about moral crisis. Huck realizes that, according to the laws of the land, he's the wrongdoer, because he's helped Jim escape. And Huck may be a liar and a runaway, but he's not sure he should be breaking any laws. His internal system of morality is in head-on conflict with the external system of laws that he's learned from the widow. Which one's going to win?
I was sorry to hear Jim say that, it was such a lowering of him. My conscience got to stirring me up hotter than ever, until at last I says to it, "Let up on me—it ain't too late yet—I'll paddle ashore at the first light and tell." I felt easy and happy and light as a feather right off. All my troubles was gone. (16.9)
We hate to break it to you, but almost everyone is happier going along with the dominant social practices—like helping out the Nazis before World War II, or agreeing that black people really should be enslaved. It's way hard to go against everything that you've been taught, and everything that your family and friends believe. No wonder Huck feels better when he decides to rat Jim out.